Early Church Fathers on the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper
Calvinists like to talk about the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, but when pressed, they, like Calvin, confess the real absence, not the real presence of Christ in His Supper. Calvin believed that the body and blood of Christ are as far removed from the elements of the Eucharist as heaven is from earth and that it is an impious superstition to believe that the body and blood of Christ are actually under the bread and wine of the Eucharist (see the Consensus Tigurinus which Calvin authored with Bullinger). At least Calvin was consistent. He also believed that Christ sneaked his way into the room where the disciples were after He rose, but before He Ascended, since his Risen human body could not possibly have just "appeared" and passed through the closed door. The Early Church fathers, like Lutheranism, rejoiced to confess our Lord’s actual presence in the Eucharistic elements. Here is but a sampling of their thinking on this.
Ignatius of Antioch
"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the
pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of
Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his
blood, which is love incorruptible" (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D.
"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
"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]).
"If the Lord were from other than the Father, how
could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own,
and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is
his blood?" (Against Heresies 4:33–32 [A.D. 189]).
"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 receives the Word of God and becomes 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?" (ibid., 5:2).
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]).
"[T]here is not a soul that can at all procure
salvation, except it believe whilst it is in the flesh, so true is it that
the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the
soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God,
it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The
flesh, indeed, is washed [in baptism], in order that the soul may be cleansed
. . . the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands [in confirmation],
that the soul also may be illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds [in
the Eucharist] on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise
may be filled with God" (The Resurrection of the Dead 8 [A.D. 210]).
"‘And she [Wisdom] has furnished her table’ [Prov.
9:2] . . . 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]).
"Formerly there was baptism in an obscure way .
. . now, however, in full view, there is regeneration in water and in the
Holy Spirit. Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna 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 true food, and my blood is true drink’
[John 6:55]" (Homilies on Numbers 7:2 [A.D. 248]).
Cyprian of Carthage
"He [Paul] threatens, moreover, the stubborn and
forward, and denounces them, saying, ‘Whosoever eats the bread or drinks
the cup of the Lord unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the
Lord’ [1 Cor. 11:27]. All these warnings being scorned and contemned—[lapsed
Christians will often take Communion] before their sin is expiated, before
confession has been made of their crime, before their conscience has been
purged by sacrifice and by the hand of the priest, before the offense of
an angry and threatening Lord has been appeased, [and so] violence is done
to his body and blood; and they sin now against their Lord more with their
hand and mouth than when they denied their Lord" (The Lapsed 15–16
Council of Nicaea I
"It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great
synod that, in some districts and cities, the deacons administer the Eucharist
to the presbyters [i.e., priests], whereas neither canon nor custom permits
that they who have no right to offer [the Eucharistic sacrifice] should
give the Body of Christ to them that do offer [it]" (Canon 18 [A.D. 325]).
Aphraahat the Persian Sage
"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.
"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 the 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).
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]).
Theodore of Mopsuestia
"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.
"Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring
to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried
that body in his hands" (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D.
"I promised you [new Christians], who have now
been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s
Table. . . . 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).
Council of Ephesus
"We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming
the death, according to the flesh, of the only-begotten Son of God, that
is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension
into heaven, we offer the unbloody sacrifice in the churches, and so go
on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his
holy flesh and the precious blood of Christ the Savior of us all. And not
as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified
and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having
a divine indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and very flesh of the
Word himself. For he is the life according to his nature as God, and when
he became united to his flesh, he made it also to be life-giving" (Session
1, Letter of Cyril to Nestorius [A.D. 431]).
Click through to the extended post for a longer version of this catena.
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one
bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."
-1 Cor. 10:16-17
"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the
night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said,
‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the
cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink
it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim
the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord
in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord."
-1 Cor. 11:23-27
The Didache or "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" is a
manuscript which was used by 2nd century bishops and priests for the instruction of
catechumens. Many early Christian writers have referenced it making this document
relatively easy to date.
"Let no one eat and drink of your Eucharist but those baptized in the name of the
Lord; to this, too the saying of the Lord is applicable: ‘Do not give to dogs what is
"On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but
first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure. However, no one quarreling
with his brother may join your meeting until they are reconciled; your sacrifice must not
be defiled. For here we have the saying of the Lord: ‘In every place and time offer me a
pure sacrifice; for I am a mighty King, says the Lord; and my name spreads terror among
St. Clement was the third successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome; otherwise known as the
"Since then these things are manifest to us, and we have looked into the depths of
the divine knowledge, we ought to do in order all things which the Master commanded us to
perform at appointed times. He commanded us to celebrate sacrifices and services, and that
it should not be thoughtlessly or disorderly, but at fixed times and hours. He has Himself
fixed by His supreme will the places and persons whom He desires for these celebrations,
in order that all things may be done piously according to His good pleasure, and be
acceptable to His will. So then those who offer their oblations at the appointed seasons
are acceptable and blessed, but they follow the laws of the Master and do not sin. For to
the high priest his proper ministrations are allotted, and to the priests the proper place
has been appointed, and on Levites their proper services have been imposed. The layman is
bound by the ordinances for the laity."
Source: St. Clement, bishop of Rome, 80 A.D., to the Corinthians
"Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly
and holily have offered its Sacrifices."
Source: Letter to the Corinthians, [44,4]
St. Ignatius became the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who was the
immediate successor of St. Peter. He heard St. John preach when he was a boy and knew St.
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. Seven of his letters written to various Christian communities
have been preserved. Eventually, he received the martyr’s crown as he was thrown to wild
beasts in the arena.
"Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace
of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the
orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain
from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the
flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the
Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead."
"Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.
"Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith
and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of
man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the
priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against
death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ."
-"Letter to the Ephesians", paragraph 20, c. 80-110 A.D.
"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."
-"Letter to the Romans", paragraph 7, circa 80-110 A.D.
"Take care, then who belong to God and to Jesus Christ – they are with the bishop.
And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church – they too shall be of God, and
will be living according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a
schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any man walk about with strange
doctrine, he cannot lie down with the passion. Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so
that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the
presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons."
-Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3:2-4:1, 110 A.D.
St. Justin Martyr was born a pagan but converted to Christianity after studying
philosophy. He was a prolific writer and many Church scholars consider him the greatest
apologist or defender of the faith from the 2nd century. He was beheaded with six of his
companions some time between 163 and 167 A.D.
"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one
who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for
forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do
not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior
being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been
taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which
our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that
" First Apology", Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155.
"God has therefore announced in advance that all the sacrifices offered in His
name, which Jesus Christ offered, that is, in the Eucharist of the Bread and of the
Chalice, which are offered by us Christians in every part of the world, are pleasing to
"Dialogue with Trypho", Ch. 117, circa 130-160 A.D.
Moreover, as I said before, concerning the sacrifices which you at that time offered,
God speaks through Malachias, one of the twelve, as follows: ‘I have no pleasure in you,
says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices from your hands; for from the rising
of the sun until its setting, my name has been glorified among the gentiles; and in every
place incense is offered to my name, and a clean offering: for great is my name among the
gentiles, says the Lord; but you profane it.’ It is of the sacrifices offered to Him in
every place by us, the gentiles, that is, of the Bread of the Eucharist and likewise of
the cup of the Eucharist, that He speaks at that time; and He says that we glorify His
name, while you profane it."
-"Dialogue with Trypho", [41: 8-10]
St. Irenaeus succeeded St. Pothinus to become the second bishop of Lyons in 177 A.D.
Earlier in his life he studied under St. Polycarp. Considered, one of the greatest
theologians of the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus is best known for refuting the Gnostic
[Christ] 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."
Source: St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 180 A.D.:
"So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and
become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and
build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is
incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ’s Blood
and Body and is His member? As the blessed apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians,
‘For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is not
talking about some kind of ‘spiritual’ and ‘invisible’ man, ‘for a spirit does not have
flesh an bones’ (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human
being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup
which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine
takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and ‘the grain of wheat falls into the
earth’ (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of
God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the
Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ."
-"Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely
Named Gnosis". Book 5:2, 2-3, circa 180 A.D. "For just as the bread which
comes from the earth, having received the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread,
but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so our bodies,
having received the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, because they have the hope of
-"Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely named
Gnosis". Book 4:18 4-5, circa 180 A.D.
St. Clement of Alexandria studied under Pantaenus. He later succeeded him as the
director of the school of catechumens in Alexandria, Egypt around the year 200 A.D.,
"The Blood of the Lord, indeed, is twofold. There is His corporeal Blood, by which
we are redeemed from corruption; and His spiritual Blood, that with which we are anointed.
That is to say, to drink the Blood of Jesus is to share in His immortality. The strength
of the Word is the Spirit just as the blood is the strength of the body. Similarly, as
wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. The one, the Watered Wine,
nourishes in faith, while the other, the Spirit, leads us on to immortality. The union of
both, however, – of the drink and of the Word, – is called the Eucharist, a praiseworthy
and excellent gift. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and in soul.
By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and
to the Word.",
-"The Instructor of the Children". [2,2,19,4] ante 202 A.D.,
"The Word is everything to a child: both Father and Mother, both Instructor and
Nurse. ‘Eat My Flesh,’ He 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. O incredible mystery!",
-"The Instructor of the Children" [1,6,41,3] ante 202 A.D.. ,
St. Cyprian of Carthage converted from paganism to Christianity around the year 246
A.D. Soon afterwards, he aspired to the priesthood and eventually was ordained Bishop of
Carthage. He was beheaded for his Faith in the year 258 A.D., thus he was the first
African bishop to have been martyred.,
"So too the the sacred meaning of the Pasch lies essentially in the fact, laid
down in Exodus, that the lamb – slain as a type of Christ – should be eaten in one single
home. God says the words: ‘In one house shall it be eaten, ye shall not cast its flesh
outside.’ The flesh of Christ and the Lord’s sacred body cannot be cast outside, nor have
believers any other home but the one Church.",
-"The Unity of the Catholic Church". Ch.8, circa 249-258 A.D.,
Description of an event in which an infant was taken to a pagan sacrifice and then the
mother recovered it and brought it to Mass.
"Listen to what happened in my presence, before my very eyes. There was a baby
girl, whose parents had fled and had, in their fear, rather improvidently lift it in the
charge of its nurse. The nurse took the helpless child to the magistrates. There, before
the idol where the crowds were flocking, as it was too young to eat the flesh, they gave
it some bread dipped in what was left of the wine offered by those who had already doomed
themselves. Later, the mother recovered her child. But the girl could not reveal or tell
the wicked thing that had been done, any more than she had been able to understand or ward
it off before. Thus, when the mother brought her in with her while we were offering the
Sacrifice, it was through ignorance that this mischance occurred. But the infant, in the
midst of the faithful, resenting the prayer and the offering we were making, began to cry
convulsively, struggling and tossing in a veritable brain-storm, and for all its tender
age and simplicity of soul, was confessing, as if under torture, in every way it could,
its consciousness of the misdeed. Moreover, when the sacred rites were completed and the
deacon began ministering to those present, when its turn came to receive, it turned its
little head away as if sensing the divine presence, it closed its mouth, held its lips
tight, and refused to drink from the chalice. The deacon persisted and, in spite of its
opposition, poured in some of the consecrated chalice. There followed choking and
vomiting. The Eucharist could not remain in a body or mouth that was defiled; the drink
which had been sanctified by Our Lord’s blood returned from the polluted stomach. So great
is the power of the Lord, and so great His majesty!",
-"The Lapsed" Ch. 25, circa 249-258 A.D.,
"The priest who imitates that which Christ did, truly takes the place of Christ,
and offers there in the Church a true and perfect sacrifice to God the Father.",
Source: St. Cyprian wrote to the Ephesians circa 258 A.D:,
"There was a woman too who with impure hands tried to open the locket in which she
was keeping Our Lord’s holy body, but fire flared up from it and she was too terrified to
touch it. And a man who, in spite of his sin, also presumed secretly to join the rest in
receiving sacrifice offered by the bishop, was unable to eat or even handle Our Lord’s
sacred body; when he opened his hands, he found he was holding nothing but ashes. By this
one example it was made manifest that Our Lord removes Himself from one who denies Him,
and that what is received brings no blessing to the unworthy, since the Holy One has fled
and the saving grace is turned to ashes.",
-"The Lapsed" Ch. 26, circa 249-258 A.D.,
As the prayer proceeds, we ask and say: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ This can be
understood both spiritually and simply, because either understanding is of profit in
divine usefulness for salvation. For Christ is the bread of life and the bread here is of
all, but is ours. And as we say ‘Our Father,’ because He is the Father of those who
understand and believe, so too we say ‘our Bread,’ because Christ is the bread of those of
us who attain to His body. Moreover, we ask that this bread be given daily, lest we, who
are in Christ and receive the Eucharist daily as food of salvation, with the intervention
of some more grievous sin, while we are shut off and as non-communicants are kept from the
heavenly bread, be separated from the body of Christ as He Himself declares, saying: ‘I am
the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread he shall live
forever. Moreover, the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.’
Since then He says that, if anyone eats of His bread, he lives forever, as it is manifest
that they live who attain to His body and receive the Eucharist by right of communion, so
on the other hand we must fear and pray lest anyone, while he is cut off and separated
from the body of Christ, remain apart from salvation, as He Himself threatens, saying:
‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life
in you.’ And so we petition that our bread, that is Christ, be given us daily, so that we,
who abide and live in Christ, may not withdraw from His sanctification and body.",
Source: St. Cyprian of Carthage, the Lord’s Prayer, 252 A.D., chapter
Not much biographical information has been left about Aphraates. It is known that he
was one of the Fathers of the Syrian Church. It is speculated that he was made bishop late
in his life.,
He is thought to have been born ca. 280 A.D. and to have died ca. 345 A.D.,
"But the Lord was not yet arrested. After having spoken thus, 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; and He was taken at night on the fourteenth, and was judged until
the sixth hour; and at the sixth hour they condemned Him and raised Him on the
- "Treatises" [12,6] inter 336-345 A.D.,
"’Holy, holy, holy Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth is full of Your glory.’ Heaven
is full, and full is the earth with your magnificent glory, Lord of Virtues. Full also is
this Sacrifice, with your strength and your communion; for to You we offer this living
Sacrifice, this unbloody oblation.,
To you we offer this bread, the likeness of the Body of the Only-begotten. This bread
is the likeness of His holy Body because the Lord Jesus Christ, on the night on which He
was betrayed, took bread and broke and gave to His disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat, this
is My Body, which is being broken for you, unto the remission of sins.’ On this account
too do we offer the Bread, to bring ourselves into the likeness of His death; and we pray:
Reconcile us all, O God of truth, and be gracious to us. And just as this Bread was
scattered over the mountains and when collected was made one, so too gather Your holy
Church from every nation and every country and every city and village and house and make
it one living Catholic Church.,
We offer also the cup, the likeness of His Blood, because the Lord Jesus Christ took
the cup after He had eaten, and He said to His disciples, ‘Take, drink, this is the new
covenant, which is My Blood which is being poured out for you unto the remission of sins.’
For this reason too we offer the chalice, to benefit ourselves by the likeness of His
Blood. O God of truth, may Your Holy Logos come upon this Bread, that the Bread may become
the Body of the Logos, and on this Cup, that the Cup may become the Blood of the Truth.
And make all who communicate receive the remedy of life, to cure every illness and to
strengthen every progress and virtue; not unto condemnation, O God of truth, nor unto
disgrace and reproach!,
For we invoke You, the Increate, through Your Only-begotten in the Holy Spirit. Be
merciful to this people, sent for the destruction of evil and for the security of Your
Church. We beseech You also on behalf of all the departed, of whom also this is the
commemoration: – after the mentioning of their names: – Sanctify these souls, for You know
them all; sanctify all who have fallen asleep in the Lord and count them among the ranks
of Your saints and give them a place and abode in your kingdom. Accept also the
thanksgiving of Your people and bless those who offer the oblations and the Thanksgivings,
and bestow health and integrity and festivity and every progress of soul and body on the
whole of this Your people through your Only-begotten Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, as
it was and is and will be in generations of generations and unto the whole expanse of the
ages of ages. Amen.",
-"The Sacramentary of Serapion, Prayer of the Eucharistic
St. Ephraim was one of the great authors of the Syrian Church. Because of his beautiful
writings, he is sometimes referred to as the ‘lyre of the Holy Spirit’. He studied under
James, Bishop of Nisbis. In 338 A.D. he aspired to the diaconate and remained a deacon for
the remainder of his life.,
"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; and He broke it and in His gracious kindness He distributed it to all His
disciples one by one. 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 indeed. One particle from its crumbs is able to
sanctify thousands and thousands, and is sufficient to afford life to those who eat of it.
Take, eat, entertaining no doubt of faith, because this is My Body, and whoever eats it in
belief eats in it Fire and Spirit. But if any doubter eat of it, for him it will be only
bread. And whoever eats in belief the Bread made holy in My name, if he be pure, he will
be preserved in his purity; and if he be a sinner, he will be forgiven.’ But if anyone
despise it or reject it or treat it with ignominy, it may be taken as certainty that he
treats with ignominy the Son, who called it and actually made it to be His Body.",
-"Homilies" 4,4 ca.. 350 A.D.,
"After the disciples had eaten the new and holy Bread, and when they understood by
faith that they had eaten of Christ’s body, Christ went on to explain and to give them the
whole Sacrament. He took and mixed a cup of wine. The He blessed it, and signed it, and
made it holy, declaring that it was His own Blood, which was about to be poured out.
…Christ commanded them to drink, and He explained to them that the cup which they were
drinking was His own Blood: ‘This is truly My Blood, which is shed for all of you. Take,
all of you, drink of this, because it is a new covenant in My Blood, As you have seen Me
do, do you also in My memory. Whenever you are gathered together in My name in Churches
everywhere, do what I have done, in memory of Me. Eat My Body, and drink My Blood, a
covenant new and old.",
-"Homilies" 4,6 ca. 350 A.D.,
"’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.",
-"On Joel 2:24", Commentaries on Sacred Scripture, Vol. 2 p.
252 of the Assemani edition.
St. Athanasius was born in Alexandria ca. 295 A.D. He was ordained a deacon in 319 A.D.
He accompanied his bishop, Alexander, to the Council of Nicaea, where he served as his
secretary. Eventually he succeeded Alexander as Bishop of Alexandria. He is most known for
defending Nicene doctrine against Arian disputes.,
"’The great Athanasius in his sermon to the newly baptized says this:’ 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. ‘And again:’ 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.",
-"Sermon to the Newly Baptized" ante 373 A.D.,
St. Cyril served as Bishop of Jerusalem in the years 348-378 A.D.,
"`I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord
Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, etc. [1 Cor. 11:23]‘. This
teaching of the Blessed Paul is alone sufficient to give you a full assurance concerning
those Divine Mysteries, which when ye are vouchsafed, ye are of (the same body) [Eph 3:6]
and blood with Christ. For he has just distinctly said, (That our Lord Jesus Christ the
same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks He brake it,
and said, Take, eat, this is My Body: and having taken the cup and given thanks, He said,
Take, drink, this is My Blood.) [1 Cor. 2:23-25] Since then He Himself has declared and
said of the Bread, (This is My Body), who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has
affirmed and said, (This is My Blood), who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His
-"Catechetical Lectures [22 (Mystagogic 4), 1]
"Therefore with fullest assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of
Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine
His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mightest be made of the
same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His
Body and Blood are diffused through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed
Peter, (we become partaker of the divine nature.) [2 Peter 1:4]
-"Catechetical Lectures [22 (Mystagogic 4), 3]
"Contemplate therefore the Bread and Wine not as bare elements, for they are,
according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for though sense
suggests this to thee, let faith stablish thee. Judge not the matter from taste, but from
faith be fully assured without misgiving, that thou hast been vouchsafed the Body and
Blood of Christ.
-"Catechetical Lectures [22 (Mystagogic 4), 6]"
"9. These things having learnt, and being fully persuaded that what seems bread is
not bread, though bread by taste, but the Body of Christ; and that what seems wine is not
wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ; and that of this David
sung of old, saying, (And bread which strengtheneth man’s heart, and oil to make his face
to shine) [Ps. 104:15], `strengthen thine heart’, partaking thereof as spiritual, and
`make the face of thy soul to shine’. And so having it unveiled by a pure conscience,
mayest thou behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and proceed from glory to glory [2
Cor. 3:18], in Christ Jesus our Lord:–To whom be honor, and might, and glory, for ever
and ever. Amen."
Source: St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogic Catechesis 4,1, c. 350 A.D.:
"Then upon the completion of the spiritual Sacrifice, the bloodless worship, over
the propitiatory victim we call upon God for the common peace of the Churches, for the
welfare of the world, for kings, for soldiers and allies, for the sick, for the afflicted;
and in summary, we all pray and offer this Sacrifice for all who are in need."
"Mystagogic Catechesis [23: 5-7]
"Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the
patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications
God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops
who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already
fallen asleep; for we believe that it will be of very great benefit of the souls of those
for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn Sacrifice is laid
-Mystagogic Catechesis [23 (Mystagogic 5), 10]
"After this you hear the singing which invites you with a divine melody to the
Communion of the Holy Mysteries, and which says, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ Do
not trust to the judgement of the bodily palate – no, but to unwavering faith. For they
who are urged to taste do not taste of bread and wine, but to the antitype, of the Body
and Blood of Christ."
-"Mystagogic Catecheses 5 23, 20 ca. 350 A.D
"Keep these traditions inviolate, and preserve yourselves from offenses. Do not
cut yourselves off from Communion, do not deprive yourselves, through the pollution of
sins, of these Holy and Spiritual Mysteries."
-"Mystagogic Catechesis [23 (Mystagogic 5), 23]"
St. Hilary firmly defended the Nicene Creed against Arian false doctrines. He was
ordained Bishop of Poiters in 350 A.D. His efforts led to the collapse of Arianism in the
West. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pius IX in 1851.
"When we speak of the reality of Christ’s nature being in us, we would 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, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord Himself and by our own
faith, it is truly the Flesh and it is truly Blood. And These Elements bring it about,
when taken and consumed, that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Is this not true? Let
those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God be free to find these things untrue. But He
Himself is in us through the flesh and we are in Him, while that which we are with Him is
-"The Trinity" [8,14] inter 356-359 A.D.
St. Basil is recognized as the founder of Eastern monasticism. He was ordained Bishop
of Caesarea in 370 A.D. He defended the Catholic Church against two waves of Arian
attacks. The first movement denied the divinity of Christ. The second denied the divinity
of the Holy Spirit. He is considered one of the greatest saints of the Oriental Church.
"What is the mark of a Christian? That he be purified of all defilement of the
flesh and of the spirit in the Blood of Christ, perfecting sanctification in the fear of
God and the love of Christ, and that he have no blemish nor spot nor any such thing; that
he be holy and blameless and so eat the Body of Christ and drink His Blood; for ‘he that
eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgement to himself.’ What is the
mark of those who eat the Bread and drink the Cup of Christ? That they keep in perpetual
remembrance Him who died for us and rose again."
-"The Morals" Ch. 22
"He, therefore, who approaches the Body and Blood of Christ in commemoration of
Him who died for us and rose again must be free not only from defilement of flesh and
spirit, in order that he may not eat drink unto judgement, but he must actively manifest
the remembrance of Him who died for us and rose again, by being dead to sin, to the world,
and to himself, and alive unto God in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
-"Concerning Baptism" Book I, Ch. 3.
"To communicate each day and to partake of the holy Body and Blood of Christ is
good and beneficial; for He says quite plainly: ‘He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood
has eternal life.’ Who can doubt that to share continually in life is the same thing as
having life abundantly? We ourselves communicate four times each week, on Sunday,
Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; and on other days if there is a commemoration of any
-"Letter to a Patrician Lady Caesaria"  ca. 372 A.D.
"We see that the Saviour 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 He gave to His disciples and said: ‘This is really Me.’ And we see that
It is not equal nor similar, not to the incarnate image, not to the invisible divinity,
not to the outline of His limbs. For It is round of shape, and devoid of feeling. As to
Its power, He means to say even of Its grace, ‘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."
-"The Man Well-Anchored"  374 A.D.
St. Gregory was consecrated Bishop of Sasima in the year 371 A.D and was a friend of
St. Basil for most of his life.
"Cease not to pray and plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when
in an unbloody cutting you cut the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for a
-"Letter to Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium"  ca. 383 A.D.
"Rightly then, do we believe that the bread consecrated by the word of God has
been made over into the Body of the 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."
-"The Great Catechism [37: 9-13]"
"He offered Himself for us, Victim and Sacrifice, and Priest as well, and ‘Lamb of
God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ When did He do this? When He made His own Body
food and His own Blood drink for His disciples; for this much is clear enough to anyone,
that a sheep cannot be eaten by a man unless its being eaten be preceded by its being
slaughtered. This giving of His own Body to His disciples for eating clearly indicates
that the sacrifice of the Lamb has now been completed."
-"Orations and Sermons" [Jaeger: Vol 9, p. 287] ca. 383 A.D.
"The bread is at first common bread; but when the mystery sanctifies it, it is
called and actually becomes the Body of Christ."
-"Orations and Sermons" [Jaeger Vol 9, pp. 225-226] ca. 383
From 386-397 A.D. St. John Chrysostom served as a priest in the main church of Antioch.
He soon became renown for his preaching and writing skills. In 397 A.D. he succeeded St.
Gregory of Nazianz as Bishop of Constantinople.
"When the word says, ‘This is My Body,’ be convinced of it and believe it, and
look at it with the eyes of the mind. For Christ did not give us something tangible, but
even in His tangible things all is intellectual. So too with Baptism: the gift is bestowed
through what is a tangible thing, water; but what is accomplished is intellectually
perceived: the birth and the renewal. If you were incorporeal He would have given you
those incorporeal gifts naked; but since the soul is intertwined with the body, He hands
over to you in tangible things that which is perceived intellectually. How many now say,
‘I wish I could see His shape, His appearance, His garments, His sandals.’ Only look! You
see Him! You touch Him! You eat Him!"
-"Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew" [82,4] 370 A.D.
"I wish to add something that is plainly awe-inspiring, but do not be astonished
or upset. This Sacrifice, no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul, is always the same
as that which Christ gave His disciples and which priests now offer: The offering of today
is in no way inferior to that which Christ offered, because it is not men who sanctify the
offering of today; it is the same Christ who sanctified His own. For just as the words
which God spoke are the very same as those which the priest now speaks, so too the
oblation is the very same."
Source: St. John Chrysostom, "Homilies on the Second Epistle to
Timothy," 2,4, c. 397 A.D.
"It is not the power of man which makes what is put before us the Body and Blood
of Christ, but the power of Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The priest standing
there in the place of Christ says these words but their power and grace are from God.
‘This is My Body,’ he says, and these words transform what lies before him."
Source: St. John Chrysostom, "Homilies on the Treachery of
Judas" 1,6; d. 407 A.D.:
"’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."
-"Homilies on the First Letter to the Corinthians" [24,1] ca.
"You perhaps say: ‘My bread is usual.’ But the bread is bread before the words of
the sacraments; when consecration has been added, from bread it becomes the flesh of
Christ. So let us confirm this, how it is possible that what is bread is the body of
Christ. By what words, then, is the consecration and by whose expressions? By those of the
Lord Jesus. For all the rest that are said in the preceding are said by the priest: praise
to God, prayer is offered, there is a petition for the people, for kings, for the rest.
When it comes to performing a venerable sacrament, then the priest uses not his own
expressions, but he uses the expressions of Christ. Thus the expression of Christ performs
-"The Sacraments" Book 4, Ch.4:14.
"Let us be assured that this is not what nature formed, but what the blessing
consecrated, and that greater efficacy resides in the blessing than in nature, for by the
blessing nature is changed. . . . Surely the word of Christ, which could make out of
nothing that which did not exist, can change things already in existence into what they
were not. For it is no less extraordinary to give things new natures than to change their
natures. . . . Christ is in that Sacrament, because it is the Body of Christ; yet, it is
not on that account corporeal food, but spiritual. Whence also His Apostle says of the
type: `For our fathers ate spiritual food and drink spiritual drink.’ [1 Cor. 10:2-4] For
the body of God is a spiritual body."
-"On the Mysteries" 9, 50-52, 58; 391 A.D.:
"His poverty enriches, the fringe of His garment heals, His hunger satisfies, His
death gives life, His burial gives resurrection. Therefore, He is a rich treasure, for His
bread is rich. And ‘rich’ is apt for one who has eaten this bread will be unable to feel
hunger. He gave it to the Apostles to distribute to a believing people, and today He gives
it to us, for He, as a priest, daily consecrates it with His own words. Therefore, this
bread has become the food of the saints."
-"The Patriarchs" Ch. 9:38
"Thus, every soul which receives the bread which comes down from heaven is a house
of bread, the bread of Christ, being nourished and having its heart strengthened by the
support of the heavenly bread which dwells within it."
-"Letter to Horontianus" circa 387 A.D.
"Following the dismissal from the Martyrium, everyone proceeds behind the Cross,
where, after a hymn is sung and a prayer is said, the bishop offers the sacrifice and
everyone receives Communion. Except on this one day, throughout the year the sacrifice is
never offered behind the Cross save on this day alone."
-"Diary of a Pilgrimage" Ch. 35.
Describes a Mass held in front of Mt. Sinai.
"All of the proper passage from the Book of Moses was read, the sacrifice was
offered in the prescribed manner, and we received Communion."
-"Diary of a Pilgrimage" Ch. 3.
"Such is the hidden retreat where Hippolytus’ body is buried. Next to an altar
nearby, built for the worship of God. Table from which the sacrament all holy is given,
close to the martyr it stands, set as a faithful guard."
-"Hymns for Every Day" Hymn 170.
"After the type had been fulfilled by the Passover celebration and He had eaten
the flesh of the lamb with His Apostles, He takes bread which strengthens the heart of
man, and goes on to the true Sacrament of the Passover, so that just as Melchisedech, the
priest of the Most High God, in prefiguring Him, made bread and wine an offering, He too
makes Himself manifest in the reality of His own Body and Blood."
-"Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew" [4,26,26] 398 A.D.
"A bishop gives the blessing, he does not receive it. He imposes hands, he
ordains, he offers the Sacrifice"
"Apostolic Constitutions [8, 28, 2:9]"
"Christ said indicating (the bread and wine): ‘This is My Body,’ and "This is
My Blood," in order that you might not judge what you see to be a mere figure. The
offerings, by the hidden power of God Almighty, are changed into Christ’s Body and Blood,
and by receiving these we come to share in the life-giving and sanctifying efficacy of
Source: St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew
26,27, 428 A.D.:
"We have been instructed in these matters and filled with an unshakable faith,
that that which seems to be bread, is not bread, though it tastes like it, but the Body of
Christ, and that which seems to be wine, is not wine, though it too tastes as such, but
the Blood of Christ . . . draw inner strength by receiving this bread as spiritual food
and your soul will rejoice."
Source: St. Cyril of Alexandria, "Catecheses," 22, 9;
"Myst." 4; d. 444 A.D.:
"You ought to know what 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. The chalice, or rather, what is in that
chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ."
-"Sermons", [227, 21]
"He who made you men, for your sakes was Himself made man; to ensure your adoption
as many sons into an everlasting inheritance, the blood of the Only-Begotten has been shed
for you. If in your own reckoning you have held yourselves cheap because of your earthly
frailty, now assess yourselves by the price paid for you; meditate, as you should, upon
what you eat, what you drink, to what you answer ‘Amen’".
-"Second Discourse on Psalm 32". Ch. 4. circa
"For the whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers:
that it prayers for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ,
when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice
is offered also in memory of them on their behalf.
Source: St. Augustine, Sermons 172,2, circa 400 A.D.
"The fact that our fathers of old offered sacrifices with beasts for victims,
which the present-day people of God read about but do not do, is to be understood in no
way but this: that those things signified the things that we do in order to draw near to
God and to recommend to our neighbor the same purpose. A visible sacrifice, therefore, is
the sacrament, that is to say, the sacred sign, of an invisible sacrifice. . . . Christ is
both the Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the sacramental
sign of this should be the daily sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His
body and He the Head, learns to offer herself through Him.
Source: St. Augustine, The City of God, 10, 5; 10,20, c. 426:
"[Christ] took the bread and the cup, each in a similar fashion, and said: ‘This
is My Body and this is My Blood.’ Not a figure of His body nor a figure of His blood, as
some persons of petrified mind are wont to rhapsodize, but in truth the Body and the Blood
of Christ, seeing that His body is from the earth, and the bread and wine are likewise
from the earth."
-"Apocriticus" [3,23] ca. 400 A.D.
"When the Lord says: ‘Unless you shall have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man and
shall have drunk His blood, you shall not have life in you,’ you ought to so communicate
at the Sacred Table that you have no doubt whatever of the truth of the Body and the Blood
of Christ. For that which is taken in the mouth is what is believed in faith; and in do
those respond, ‘Amen,’ who argue against that which is received."
-"Sermons" [91,3] ante 461 A.D.
"As often as some infirmity overtakes a man, let him who is ill receive the Body
and Blood of Christ."
-"Sermons [13 (265), 3]
"Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the Only-begotten God the Word
Himself become flesh offered Himself in an odor of sweetness as a Sacrifice and Victim to
God on our behalf; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, in the time of the Old
Testament animals were sacrificed by the patriarchs and prophets and priests; and to whom
now, I mean in the time of the New Testament, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, with
whom He has one Godhead, the Holy Catholic Church does not cease in faith and love to
offer throughout all the lands of the world a sacrifice of Bread and Wine . . . In those
former sacrifices what would be given us in the future was signified figuratively; but in
this sacrifice which has now been given us, it is shown plainly. In those former
sacrifices it was fore-announced that the Son of God would be killed for the impious; but
in the present it is announced that He has been killed for the impious."
-"The Rule of Faith "
"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the
living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent
in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and
in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but
having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings,
and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths."
(2 Tim 4:1-4)