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Early Christian Writings on the Eucharist

by Bill Bond

Edited by L. Kovach

There are numerous references to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the early Christian Writings. The significance of this fact is that these writings reveal what people believed in the years not long after Jesus' sojourn here on earth. Let us sample a few of many possible references to the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion:

Pulsar2.gifSt. Ignatius of Antioch to the Chuch in Smyrna, around 107 AD, urged Christians to shun those [the Docetists] who

"do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of the savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His loving kindness raised from the dead"
(taken from Paul Palmer's Sacraments and Worship, page 133).

Pulsar2.gifSt. Justin the Martyr in his First Apology, circa 155 AD:

"Not as ordinary bread and ordinary drink do we partake of them, but just as the Word of God, our Savior Jesus Christ, became Incarnate ... so, we have taught, the food that has been made the Eucharist by the prayer of His word ... is both the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh"
(Palmer, 133).

Pulsar2.gifSt. Cyril of Jerusalem [or perhaps his immediate successor] in On the Mysteries, about 350 AD:

"2 Of old in Cana of Galilee, He changed water into wine of His own will. Is He less worthy of credence when He changes wine into blood? ... 6 Therefore, look not upon the bread and wine as bare elements, for they happen to be, according to the Lord's assurance, the body and blood of Christ ... 9 Having learned all this, and fully assured that what appears to be bread is not bread--though it appears such to your taste--but the body of Christ, and what appears to be wine is not wine--though taste will have it so--but the blood of Christ ... strengthen your own heart by partaking thereof"
(Palmer, 137).

This is a great explanation of transubstantiation in ordinary language, and clearly reflects the same belief held by Catholics today.

Here are some references to the Eucharist as a Sacrifice.

Pulsar2.gifFrom the "Didache" (also called "the Teachings of the 12 Apostles, dated circa 70 AD),

"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. Let no one who has been quarreling with his brother join your meeting until they are reconciled; your sacrifice must not be defiled. For 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 is wonderful among the nations'"
(Mal 1.11,14).

Pulsar2.gifClement of Rome, circa 96 AD, wrote:

"44. Our apostles were given to understand by our Lord Jesus Christ that the office of bishop would give rise to intrigues. For this reason, equipped as they were with perfect knowledge, they appointed the men mentioned before, and afterwards laid down a rule once for all to this effect: when these men die, other approved men shall succeed to their ministry ... It would be no small sin for us if we oust men who have blamelessly and piously offered the sacrifices proper to the episcopate"

This excerpt also supports the early belief in the hierarchy found in the Church.

Pulsar2.gifSt. Justin the Martyr in his "Dialogue with Trypho the Jew" (circa 155 AD) penned,

"God has therefore announced in advance that all the sacrifices offered in His name, which Jesus Christ commanded to be offered, that in the Eucharist of the bread and of the cup which are offered by us Christians in every part of the world, are pleasing to Him"

That Jesus our God is truly present in the Eucharist is clearly attested to by the writings of the early believers. To all who love our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, there should be a deep desire to be able to participate in Holy Communion - the ancient Eucharistic feast!

The Eucharist is a Sacrament of Eternal Life - we have Jesus' Word on it!


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