Catholic Understanding of the General Truths of the Eucharist (Part IV)

How about the Fathers? Do they believe in the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ’s body and blood? If we ask the Gnostics, the answer is “no”. The gnostics thought the world was evil, the product of a fallen God. Hence, they naturally deny that the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ’s body. After all, they could quote, “The flesh is of no avail.”

The docetists held the same. (In fact, they are an earlier heretical movement.) The docetists believed that Jesus was only a spirit. He was not flesh. They denied that the Word became flesh. So, there is no “body of Christ” for the bread to become. Thus, the docetists kept away from the Eucharist.

But neither Gnostic nor docetist is Christian. For whoever does not confess that the Word was made flesh, that the Christ came in the flesh, is antichrist!

In fact, there is no Christian who denies the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist until several centuries, six or more, after Christ departed this earth.

 

Let me cite a few texts from Ignatius of Antioch (dead AD 110):

“I take no pleasure in corruptible food or the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ who is of the seed of David; and for drink I want his blood, which is incorruptible love” (Holmes edition, 1989, p. 105).

“They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by his goodness raised up,” 112

“Take care, therefore, to participate in one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup which leads to unity through his blood; there is one altar, just as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow servants), in order that whatever you do, you do in accordance with God” (107).

Why the Eucharist? It is “the medicine of immortality, the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ” (p. 93.). He is speaking of eternal life, not of perpetual life on earth. Yet, he is also speaking of resurrection – bodily resurrection. Those early Christians who disdained the body – gnostics, docetists – had no concern for the Eucharist. Those early Christians who loved it in its proper place cherished the Eucharist.