The Eucharist, (derived from the Greek noun eucharistia, which means “thanksgiving”) also known as Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, and Holy Viaticum, is defined by the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) as the following:
“The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.”
“At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'”
“Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body. We also call it: the holy things (ta hagia; sancta) – the first meaning of the phrase “communion of saints” in the Apostles’ Creed – the bread of angels, bread from heaven, medicine of immortality, viaticum…”
As shown in the text above, the Catholic Church teaches that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is present under the appearances of bread and wine. The Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus Christ on Holy Thursday, at the Last Supper with his Twelve Apostles. The Eucharist is the most treasured of the Catholic Church’s Seven Sacraments, due to the reality of God Himself being substantially present among us, under the appearances of bread and wine. The name given to how bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ is called transubstantiation.
“By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity.” (CCC 1413)
The Catholic Church’s teaching on the Holy Eucharist has a strong biblical basis. In both the Synoptic Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul, the Real Presence is taught and defended.
Also, there is a strong historical basis for the Catholic argument. The doctrine of the Real Presence (the teaching of the Eucharist being truly Christ’s Body and Blood) since its institution at the Last Supper, has been believed by Catholics throughout history even till now. The Early Christians testified of Christ’s true Presence in the Eucharist, and some, mostly those who lived before the Edict of Milan, were brutally murdered for their unwavering beliefs in the Real Presence.
In this paper, we shall look over the texts of the Sacred Scriptures, and also the early writings of the first Christians, in order to defend the Catholic doctrine from attackers.
Who are the attackers? Let’s take a look. The attackers are the common Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestants; mostly those who go under the title “Bible Christian”, and yet do not profess a doctrine the Bible clearly teaches. Some of these people who disagree with the Catholic teaching are only doing so out of ignorance, while others have biased anti-Catholic beliefs which are made up of hateful lies, and twisted, misrepresented truths. Here’s a rundown of the common Protestant argument against the Catholic teaching of the Eucharist.
First, the Eucharist is only a symbol of Christ’s Passion and Death on the Cross, nothing more; and Second, Jesus did not change bread and wine into His Body and Blood at the Last Supper, and did not mean for His teaching to be taken literally.
This is the common argument of a Protestant who disbelieves in the Real Presence. Some other hardcore anti-Catholic Fundamentalists go even farther in their accusations against the Real Presence.
The point proven is that the opponents of the Church recognize the importance of one of Catholicism’s core doctrines, if they adhere to mocking it. What’s more, the attacks show that Fundamentalists are not always literalists. This is seen in their interpretation of the key biblical passages concerning the Eucharist. Let’s now look at the Catholic Church’s biblical basis for its doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
The Text of John 6
The 6th chapter of the Gospel of John is a key biblical passage in the teaching of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. John 6 begins with Jesus traveling over the sea of Galilee being followed by a great multitude of people, who are pursuing Him because of how He raised the dead to life. (John 6:1-3)
Jesus, seeing the crowd following Him, asks if there is any bread to feed the crowd. The Apostles bring Jesus five barley loaves and two fishes. Jesus then miraculously multiplies the loaves an fishes and has the Apostles distribute them to the crowd. After the crowd is finished, the Apostles collect the remains of the meal, and the food fills twelve baskets.
Afterwards, the crowd wants to seize Jesus to make Him their king. Jesus flees alone to a nearby mountain, while His Apostles go out onto a boat into the sea. Later, Jesus meets the Apostles on the sea, by walking on the water. After conversing with them, Jesus goes to Capharnaum, and His Apostles soon follow. It is here that the Jews ask Jesus for a sign that they may believe that He is the Christ. (John 6:14-30)
Here, in the second half of John 6, begins the instruction on the Eucharist.
The Bread From Heaven
The Jews tell Jesus that their ancestors ate the manna while in the desert, that is, the bread that came down from Heaven. Could Jesus top that? (John 6:31)
Jesus responds by saying:
“Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.” (John 6:32-33)
The Jews reply with:
“They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread.” (John 6:34)
The Jews want this bread that, according to Jesus, comes down from Heaven. They want to see what Jesus can give them in contrast with the manna that fell from Heaven to their forefathers. They wish to see if Jesus can give them something that will prove to them that He is the Christ.
John 6:35 says:
“And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.”
Notice how Jesus says ” ‘I am’ the bread of Life”. An interesting note is that in the Old Testament, God tells Moses that “I AM” is His name.
“God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14, emphasis added)
Here Jesus uses the name of God to say that “I AM (GOD IS) the bread of life.”
The Bread is My Flesh
Here is where the Jews think that Jesus has just lost His sanity. Let’s look at what exactly happens. Jesus says:
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6:51-52, emphasis added)
Woah, Woah, Woah! What’s He saying?! Jesus says that the bread of life that He is to give the world is His flesh! The Jews respond by saying:
“The Jews thereof strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:53)
The Jews are freaked out! Why are they freaked? Because they understand Jesus to be speaking to them literally–and they are correct. They are questioning Jesus because they think He truly means for them to eat the flesh of His body. Now, if Jesus was just talking in parables; metaphorically that is, He would tell the crowd what He means, right? If he only meant to eat His flesh symbolically, He would of made that clear, wouldn’t He? Let’s read on.
Jesus replies to the Jews with these words.
“Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.” (John 6:54-59, emphasis added)
Those are some pretty powerful words! Jesus didn’t tell them of a symbolic meaning of what He spoke. He didn’t soften up His words; He reinforced them! No one now thought that He was speaking symbolically. He made no attempt to express any “symbolic” meaning; because there was none!
Jesus says that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we won’t have life within us! His flesh is meat–indeed! And His blood is drink–indeed! If Jesus only meant that this was all symbolic, then He has really been confusing His followers.
In the text above, Jesus says that if we eat His flesh and drink His blood, He will abide in us and we in Him. This is very important because:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:4-7, emphasis added)
Christ’s disciples murmur among themselves:
“Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (John 6: 61, emphasis added)
Jesus’ own disciples are questioning His teaching now! So far, Jesus has made no corrections to their literal understanding. Instead, he goes on even further, saying:
“Doth this scandalize you? If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life. But there are some of you that believe not.” (John 6:62-65)
Here is where the Protestant objections and “corrections” arise. One thing they may say is:
“Hey! He said that it’s the spirit that benefits, and that the flesh is worthless! He couldn’t mean that we are to literally eat His flesh and drink His blood!”
First of all, Jesus said nothing about His flesh not being of profit. If Jesus Christ’s flesh is worthless and has no benefit, then we are all damned. It was Jesus’ flesh that was scourged, buffeted, spit upon, and hung on a tree for our salvation. What is that interpretation supposed to mean? “Eat my flesh, but it won’t help you.” NO! If Christ’s flesh does not profit, then He was born, lived, died, and resurrected for no reason. Jesus’ flesh itself does indeed profit much.
The term “flesh” here is referring to a man’s inclination to judge things by natural human reason. That is, to judge by worldly judgment. Natural human judgment, when unaided by God’s grace, is unreliable and erroneous. This “fleshy” or “carnal” judgment is rebuked in John 8.
“You judge according to the flesh: I judge not any man. And if I do judge, my judgment is true: because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.” (John 8:15-16,emphasis added)
Here are further explanatory passages for the usage of the term “flesh”.
“For they that are according to the flesh, mind the things that are of the flesh; but they that are according to the spirit, mind the things that are of the spirit.” (Romans 8:5, emphasis added)
“That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” (John 3:6, emphasis added)
The term “flesh” when used in the Bible usually means the sinful human inclinations of living life. In the instance of John 6:63, this is the true meaning. The text does not mean that Jesus’ flesh is worthless. On the contrary, it avails much.
After this, Protestants will usually say that since Jesus said “The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life”, then the word “spirit” means “symbolic”. That’s the explanation of this passage! He was just speaking symbolically! Wait…was He?
This Fundamentalist conclusion can only be reached when someone is trying their hardest to evade the Catholic interpretation. The word “spirit” is never used anywhere in the Bible as a synonym for “symbolic”! That is a horrible, lame conclusion! Jesus never mentioned the third Person of the Holy Trinity as the “Holy Symbol”. The usage of the term “spirit” here only means that what Christ said can only be understood by faith; apposed to the interpretation according to the flesh. The carnal interpretation is of no avail.
No Room For Symbols
The only conclusion a person can make from the text of John 6 is that Jesus intended us to literally eat and drink His flesh and blood. It couldn’t be more explicit, right? Fundamentalists usually make a few more claims before realizing they don’t add up. Some may say:
“In John 6:35 Jesus said ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.’ That means that eating His flesh is coming to Him, and having faith in Him is drinking His blood.”
There are problems with this interpretation. First, when read in context of the verses that follow, it is clear that Jesus meant for His flesh to be eaten literally. Second, the phrase “to eat the flesh and drink the blood” of a person, when used figuratively among the Jews, meant to inflict upon a person a severe injury. This usually meant to injure someone by calumny or slander. Using a figurative interpretation would mean that Jesus is promising the Jews everlasting life if they slander His name. Doesn’t sound right, does it?
Some Fundamentalists assert that Jesus was speaking symbolically when they cross-reference the discourse of John 6 with other Scripture passages. Jimmy Swaggart for instance, in a column in his magazine, The Evangelist (October 1985), says that Catholics should likewise begin worshipping Jesus as a door (John 10:7-9), and also as a vine (John 15:5), since they believe He was speaking literally about His flesh in John 6.
Well, these analogies have drastic difference with the discussion of John 6. There is no logical comparison with the phrases used by Jesus in John 6 (eating and drinking His flesh and blood) and those of John 10 and 15. In John 10, it is clear that Jesus was not claiming to be a literal door, composed of a slab of wood, knob, hinges, and key hole. In a spiritual sense though, Jesus Christ is like a door; we all go to the Father in Heaven through Him, don’t we (John 14:6)? Jesus is also like a vine since all Christians get their spiritual life, or “sap” through Him. But as for us eating His flesh, there is no symbolic comparison. Jesus Himself did say “the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world”. This cannot be expressed symbolically, and only leaves people like Swaggart scratching their heads.
Language of the Text
There is another problem with the symbolic interpretation of John 6. The Gospel of John was recorded in Greek. Beginning with the text in John 6:54, Jesus uses the Greek word for “eat” which is “trogon“, and translates as “chewing” or “gnawing”. Trogon is used to replace the word Jesus had previously been using for eat, which is “phago“. Phago is a more general, generic term for the word “eat”. By using this graphic term, trogon, Jesus sends the message of the literal eating of His flesh. John reinforces this literal meaning by using trogon four times within John 6; verses 54, 56, 57, and 58. Is Jesus was trying to leave a possible symbolic interpretation of His words on the table, then He would have continued to use the word phago throughout His teaching. But He did not. He chose to use the more graphic term for His literal teaching.
The Loss of Followers
After Jesus finishes His Eucharistic instruction, some of His followers choose to leave Him. It is recorded as:
“After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.” (John 6:67, emphasis added)
After listening to Him, many of Jesus’ followers leave Him! This is the only recorded time when Jesus lost followers due to doctrinal teaching. They obviously found something wrong with His teaching! They understood Jesus to be speaking literally, not symbolically. And, if Jesus was actually only speaking symbolically, then why did He not call the crowd back, and tell them of the true symbolism? Because there were not symbols. Jesus showed that He truly was speaking literally, saying that He intended for His flesh to be actually eaten for the life of the world.
After losing a number of his disciples, Jesus turns to His Apostles next.
“Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” (John 6:68-70)
Peter and the Apostles do not entirely grasp Jesus’ teaching, but they remain because they know that He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God.
In the entire text of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, there is no symbolic teaching of eating of Christ’s flesh, only a literal understanding.
The Synoptic Gospels
I shall now move on to the accounts of the Last Supper as written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These Gospel passages of the Last Supper are the fulfillment of Christ’ promise in John 6, when He foretold the Eucharist.
The Text of Matthew 26
Matthew 26 opens up with the Jews conspiring against Jesus (Matthew 26:1-5), and is followed by Jesus having His feet anointed at the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6-13). After this, Judas betrays Jesus to the chief priests (Matthew 26:14-16), and the Pasch is prepared for Jesus and His Apostles (Matthew 26:17-25).
After eating the Pasch meal, the following is recorded:
“And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28, emphasis added)
Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and distributes it to His Apostles. He tells them that it is His body! There is no symbolic language. He does not say “This is a symbol of my body” or “This means my body”. He only says “This is my body”.
The Text of Mark 14
The Last Supper story of Mark 14 is preceded by Jesus ending two of His disciples to prepare a room for the Pasch (Mark 14:12-16). After gathering for the meal, Jesus tells the group that there is a traitor among them; Judas (Mark 14:17-21). The following words are then recorded.
“And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body. And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it. And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many.” (Mark 14:22-24, emphasis added)
The Text of Luke 22
The text of Luke 22 begins about the same as Mark 14. Jesus sends His Apostles to prepare a room for the Pasch (Luke 22:7-14). He then eats the meal with them (Luke 22:15-18). He then institutes the Eucharist, saying:
“And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. In like manner the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20, empahsis added)
In all of the three Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks (or blessed) for it, and says that it is His body! There is absolutely no symbolism here. He speaks to them plainly. It is in like manner to the chalice of wine. He said that it is the new testament in His blood. He does not say “These are symbols of by body and blood” or “These represent my body and blood”. He says that they are His body and blood!
The Fruit of the Vine
Protestants try to disprove the reality of the Real Presence by citing the phrase “fruit of the vine” that appears in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, as to say that Jesus understood that the contents of the chalice were mere wine and not His blood. Let’s look at the context of the phrase in Matthew and Mark. Matthew 26:26-30 states the following.
“And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins. And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father. And a hymn being said, they went out unto mount Olivet.”
Mark 14:22-26 says:
“And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body. And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it. And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many. Amen I say to you, that I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had said an hymn, they went forth to the mount of Olives.”
It appears that Jesus is referring to the chalice of His blood as “fruit of the vine”, and not really His blood. Most Fundamentalists make the mistake of not taking into account the passage in the Gospel of Luke. Unlike Matthew and Mark’s Gospels, Luke’s Gospel places the phrase “fruit of the vine” before the institution of the Eucharist. Let’s take a look at Luke’s recording.
“And he said to them: With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer. For I say to you, that from this time I will not eat it, till it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And having taken the chalice, he gave thanks, and said: Take, and divide it among you: For I say to you, that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, till the kingdom of God come. And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. In like manner the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.” (Luke 22:15-20, emphasis added)
It appears that when Jesus uses the phrase “fruit of the vine”, He is not speaking of the chalice of His blood, but rather that of the wine of the Pasch meal. If Jesus is actually referring to the drink of the meal, and not of the Eucharist, then the Fundamentalist reasoning is rendered useless. The point here is that someone cannot enforce the Fundamentalist interpretation with the real uncertainty of the verses meaning.
The Pauline Epistles
Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians
“The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16, emphasis added)
St. Paul says that chalice that is blessed is in communion of the blood of Christ. The bread which is broken is partaking of the body of the Lord. Notice he doesn’t say they are only mere symbols.
Here is Paul’s account of the Last Supper, and also his instruction on the Eucharist.
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-30, emphasis added)
Here St. Paul gives a near identical account of the Last Supper as that of the Synoptic Gospels, but he then follows it up with several firm words on the Eucharist. He said that who ever partakes unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord! How can you be guilty of such an offence if the Eucharist is only symbolic? He who eats unworthily eats and drinks judgment unto himself! Harsh words for an apparent “metaphor” or “symbol”! He says this punishment is for those who do not discern the body of the Lord. If the Eucharist is not truly Christ’s body, then what is Paul referencing to? St. Paul obviously taught the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as he was writing part of the infallible Word of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity would not allow Paul to commit such an error if meaning to convene the reality of symbolism in the Eucharist. Paul’s words make sense only if the bread and wine became the real body and blood of Christ.
Paul says that there are many that are infirmed and weak among the Corinthians. This is because when they did not discern the body of the Lord, and received His body unworthily, which contributed to spiritual loss of grace. Paul’s words for the Corinthians are very firm and seemingly un-symbolic. The Fundamentalist “figurative” interpretation is useless here.
The Road to Emmaus
The Text of Luke 24:13-35
In Luke 24:13-35, on the road to Emmaus, the resurrected Jesus appears to some of His disciples, but his identity is unknown or “hidden” from them. He then discusses the scriptures that pertain to Him, and then sits down to table and breaks bread with his disciples. At the moment of Consecration, (the breaking of the bread) the true identity of Jesus is made known to His disciples, and then he disappears! This is the reality of the Real presence today! Jesus is made present in the Eucharist at the moment of Consecration, after the praying the prescribed words that Jesus uttered at the Last Supper. He is truly present at the breaking of the bread!
After examining the biblical evidence of the Eucharist, I am uncertain of how a person can still view the Eucharist as only a symbolic remembrance of Christ’s death.
The Testimony of the Early Christians with Commentary
The Didache, Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (70 AD)
“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 sacred’.” (Didache 9:5)
St. Ignatius of Antioch (lived 35-108 AD, Disciple of St. John)
“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)
“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)
They abstain from the Eucharist because they do not confess it to be the flesh of Jesus Christ. Sounds a lot like a Fundamentalist Protestant, doesn’t it? Ignatius was writing against heresy that is still alive today, but now goes under the title “Christian”. Let’s look at the others.
St. Justin Martyr (lived 100-165 AD, pagan convert)
“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 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)
St. Justin speaks of the Catholic teaching on the requirements of the Eucharistic recipients. They are required to be baptized for the remission of their sins and has true belief in the Catholic teaching. He takes to heart the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 in order to further protect the disbelievers and those who are ignorant of the Real Presence.
St. Irenaeus of Lyon (lived 130-202 AD, student of St. Polycarp)
“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)
“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 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?” (Against Heresies, 5:2)
St. Clement of Alexandria (lived 150-215 AD, teacher of Origen)
“’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)
St. Clement does not teach that Jesus was speaking symbolically, nor does he admonish the Christian people for believing literally, but rather teaches the Catholic theological standpoint.
Origen (lived 184-253 AD, student of Clement of Alexandria)
“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.’ ” (Homilies on Numbers 7:2)
St. Cyprian of Carthage (lived 210-258 AD, pagan convert)
“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)
St. Aphrahat the Persian Sage (lived 280-345 AD)
“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)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (lived 313-386 AD, Doctor of the Church)
“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)
“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.” (Catechetical Lectures, 22:6, 9)
St. Ambrose of Milan (lived 340-397 AD, Archbishop 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)
St. Augustine of Hippo (lived 354-430 AD, Doctor of the Church)
“I promised you, 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)
“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.” (Sermons 227, 272)
Council of Nicaea I (325 AD)
“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, 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)
Council of Ephesus (431 AD)
“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 un-bloody 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)
None of the Early Christians believed in a merely symbolic presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but rather a substantial presence, the same Catholic teaching of today that has been believed through the ages. If the Church had believed this from its beginning then that means the Fundamentalist interpretation is only a relatively recent half-baked theory. The symbolic interpretation is an addition to the Christian Faith that was ONCE delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), thus a man-made tradition that nullifies the Word of God.
Even Martin Luther, the Father of Protestantism, did not believe that the Eucharist is merely a symbol.
Martin Luther (lived 1483-1546 AD, Protestant Revolutionist)
“If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ?, I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger. Now here stands the Word of Christ: Take, eat; this is My body; Drink ye all of it; this is the new testament in My blood, etc. Here we abide, and would like to see those who will constitute themselves His masters, and make it different from what He has spoken. It is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word or regard it without the words, you have nothing but mere bread and wine. But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then, in virtue of the same, it is truly the body and blood of Christ. For as the lips of Christ say and speak, so it is, as He can never lie or deceive.”
(The Large Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther; On the Sacrament of the Altar)
If the Eucharist was only meant to be a symbol, then it should be evident through the first centuries of Christianity that this was believed, but it is not found. It was all the way until the 9th century that the first public denial of the Real Presence came about. It was the start of another Protestant man-made tradition.
Why are Protestants so keen on denying the Real Presence of the Catholic Eucharist? They just can’t seem to get over the fact that spiritual grace can be given by God through matter. Protestants just don’t like the fact that Catholics “walk by faith, not by sight”. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Thank you for reading,