Monday, June 11, 2007
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.
"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. A.D. 80-110
St. Irenaeus succeeded St. Pothinus to become the second bishop of Lyons in A.D. 177. 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 heresies.
[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, A.D. 180
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 A.D. 200
"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 A.D. 202
St. Cyprian of Carthage converted from paganism to Christianity around the year A.D. 246. Soon afterwards, he aspired to the priesthood and eventually was ordained Bishop of Carthage. He was beheaded for his Faith in the year A.D. 258, 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 A.D. 249-258
St. Gregory of Nyssa was one of the bishops present at the Nicene Council who fought Arian heresy and developed for the church universal the Nicene Creed.
"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. A.D. 383
St. Cyril of Alexandria
"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 Christ."
Source: St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 26,27, A.D. 428
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 A.D. 163 and 167
"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 incarnate Jesus."
" First Apology", Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155
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 A.D. 338 he aspired to the diaconate and remained a deacon for the remainder of his life.
"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. A.D. 350
St. Hilary firmly defended the Nicene Creed against Arian false doctrines. He was ordained Bishop of Poiters in A.D. 350 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 in God."
-"The Trinity" [8,14] inter A.D. 356-359
We can also go to Jesus, in the Gospel of John, who did not explain away His calling Himself the Bread of Life as a metaphor, nor say that He didn't really mean for them to drink of His blood. Instead, He told them to go on and leave if the teaching was too hard for them.
St. Paul, in one of his letters to the Corinthians, also stressed the truth of the Body of Christ present in the Eucharist, and the importance of right understanding about it. How can one be guilty of profaning a symbol? What a wonder! What a blessing! What a mystery!
The book, btw, is It is called Crossing the Tiber, by Stephen Ray. It is written by a Catholic convert as you probably guessed, but it deals almost exclusively with the early church father's teachings on baptism and the Eucharist.
I started reading your blog recently and I've been enjoying it. Just thought I stop lurking and say something. :-)