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Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Eucharist and the Fathers

The following passage from Ignatius is very early (110 A.D.). He states the importance of believing that the Eucharist is the literal body and blood of Christ.
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.

Letters of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter VII
The following passage from Justin Martyr is very early (150 A.D.). He affirms that the bread is the body of Christ and the wine is the blood of Christ.
And this food is called among us 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. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone.
The First Apology of Justin, Chapter LXVI, Of the Eucharist.
The following letter from Irenaeus is very early (150 A.D.). He makes very clear statements regarding the Eucharist.

Chapter II -- By shedding His true blood for us, and exhibiting to us His true flesh in the Eucharist, He conferred upon our flesh the capacity of salvation.

2. But vain in every respect are they who despise the entire dispensation of God, and disallow the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption. But if this indeed do not attain salvation, then neither did the Lord redeem us with His blood, nor is the cup of the Eucharist the communion of His blood, nor the bread which we break the communion of His body. For blood can only come from veins and flesh, and whatsoever else makes up the substance of man, such as the Word of God was actually made. By His own blood he redeemed us, as also His apostle declares, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins." And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation (and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills). He 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.

3. 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?--even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that "we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh; but [he refers to] that dispensation [by which the Lord became] an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones,--that [flesh] which is nourished by the cup which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread which is His body. And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a corn of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time, the Word of God granting them resurrection to the glory of God.

Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter II
The following passage from Irenaeus (about 150 A.D.) remarks on those who reject Christ by referring to Him as the heavenly wine.

Therefore do these men reject the commixture of the heavenly wine, and wish it to be water of the world only, not receiving God so as to have union with Him.
Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter I, Paragraph 3
The following passage considers the belief in the Eucharist as necessary for salvation.

And the angel answered and said unto me: If any man shall have been put into this well of the abyss and it shall have been sealed over him, no remembrance of him shall ever be made in the sight of the Father and His Son and the holy angels. And I said: Who are these, Sir, who are put into this well? And he said to me: They are whoever shall not confess that Christ has come in the flesh and that the Virgin Mary brought him forth, and whoever says that the bread and cup of the Eucharist of blessing are not this body and blood of Christ.

The Vision of Paul, Paragraph 41
The following passage from the Didache is very early (100 A.D.). Note that the Eucharist is considered to be holy.

9:1 But concerning the Eucharist, after this fashion give ye thanks.

9:5 And let none eat or drink of your Eucharist but such as have been baptized into the name of the Lord, for of a truth the Lord hath said concerning this, Give not that which is holy unto dogs.

The Didache, Chapter 9
The following letter from Ignatius is very early (110 A.D.). He affirms that the bread is the body of Christ and the wine is the blood of Christ.

I have confidence of you m the Lord, that ye will be of no other mind. Wherefore I write boldly to your love, which is worthy of God, and exhort you to have but one faith, and one [kind of] preaching, and one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ; and His blood which was shed for us is one; one loaf also is broken to all [the communicants], and one cup is distributed among them all: there is but one altar for the whole Church, and one bishop, with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants.
Letters of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Chapter IV, Have but One Eucharist

3 Comments:

Anonymous Antonio said...

"[Ignatius] states the importance of believing that the Eucharist is the literal body and blood of Christ".

Maybe it's because I'm not a theologian, but would Ignatius have trouble with the word "transubstantiation"?
I think he wouldn't.

3:56 pm  
Anonymous William Tighe said...

I agree -- but you might have some a-do explaining to him what a "substance" is and in what sense it can change, and then again in convincing him why one ought to use such terms.

9:56 pm  
Anonymous The Common Anglican said...

Antonio,

I think Ignatius most like would have a tuff time with the word "transubstantiation," as Dr. Tighe notes, as he was familiar with Aristotelian metaphysics. Transubstantiation is not antithetical to Real Presence theology, obviously, so who knows what he would have thought if presented with (and correctly understanding) Aquinas' Summa?

7:19 am  

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