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The Early Church Fathers on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107)
    St. Justin Martyr, (A.D. 100-163)
    St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202)
    St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220)
    Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218)
    St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236)
    Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107), Syrian; ecclesiastical writer, bishop, martyr. A disciple of St. John, the Apostle; he was bishop of Antioch, in which see he succeeded St. Peter, or, as others think, Evodius. He is supposed to have governed that church for about forty years. He suffered martyrdom at Rome in the year 107.

"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."

Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 6, 110 A.D.

20:1 If Jesus Christ should count me worthy through your prayer, and it should be the Divine will, in my second tract, which I intend to write to you, I will further set before you the dispensation whereof I have begun to speak, relating to the new man Jesus Christ, which consisteth in faith towards Him and in love towards Him, in His Passion and Resurrection, 20:2 especially if the Lord should reveal aught to me. Assemble yourselves together in common, every one of you severally, man by man, in grace, in one faith and one Jesus Christ, who after the flesh was of David's race, who is Son of Man and Son of God, to the end that ye may obey the bishop and presbytery without distraction of mind; breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote that we should not die but live for ever in Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians Chapter 20, 1-2, 57 A.D.

St. Justin Martyr, (A.D. 100-163), Samaritan; born in Sichem (Naplousia) in Palestine; a platonic philosopher, apologist, and martyr for the faith; he was a convert to Catholic Christianity in A.D. 133. He wrote two Apologies for the Christian religion, one addressed to Antoninus, the other to Marcus Aurelius. He was martyred at Rome in the year 163.

Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ

It is allowed to no one else to participate in that food which we call Eucharist except the one who believes that the things taught by us are true, who has been cleansed in the washing unto rebirth and the forgiveness of sins and who is living according to the way Christ handed on to us. For we do not take these things as ordinary bread or ordinary drink.

Just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh.

Justin Martyr, Apology, I.66-67, 2nd century

St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202), Asia Minor; bishop, missionary, theologian, defender of orthodoxy. Though by birth a Greek, he was Bishop of Lyons in the second century. He tells us that, in his early youth, he learned the rudiments of religion from St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Apostle. He wrote several works, of which only a few fragments are now known, with the exception of his Treatise against Heretics which we have in five books.

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 [wine and water] and the baked bread receive the Word of God and become 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 [A.D. 189]

St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220), Greek; theologian, a scholar of Pantaenus, to whom he succeeded as head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, Egypt. His writings display great acquaintance with the Gentile philosophy. He wrote with the express design of hiding the mysteries of the Christian religion from the Pagans, and the uninitiated, while at the same time, laboring to show the immense practical superiority of the Christian code of morals over that of every Pagan sect and system of philosophy.

"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 [A.D. 191]

"One is the Father of all things; one also the Word of all things; and one the Holy Spirit, and the same everywhere. And one alone Virgin Mother, whom it pleases me to call the Church. Not this one mother alone had milk; because she was not the only woman, but she is at once a virgin and a mother; as a virgin in purity, as a mother in loving affection; and calling unto her children, she nourishes them with hallowed milk, with the infant Word. Therefore had she not milk, because this beautiful and her own child was milk, feeding the new people with the Word, (a new people) which the Lord Himself brought forth with bodily pain, which He Himself bound in swathing clothes, with precious blood. Oh holy labor! Oh hallowed hands! The Word is all things to the child, both father and mother and paedagogue and nourisher. "Eat my flesh", He saith, and "drink my blood." The Lord supplies us with these befitting aliments, and gives flesh and pours forth blood; and nothing is wanting for the children's growth. Oh the incredible mystery! He orders us to put aside the old and carnal corruption, as well as also the old food; but, being made partakers of the other new food of Christ, receiving Him, if possible, to place Him within ourselves, and to have the Saviour in our beings, in order that we may reduce to their proper place the affections of our flesh.

Paedag. l. i. c. vi. p. 123.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 198-199

Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218), North African; ecclesiastical writer, Christian apologist and lawyer, son of a centurion and contemporary of St. Irenæus, a native and citizen of Carthage. The zeal and ability with which he defended the Christian cause, and vindicated its faith and discipline, have immortalized his name, though it has suffered by his adoption, around the year A.D. 200, of some of the Montanist's errors, whose cause he is thought to have supported until his death. His works are numerous, and are written with great ability and erudition, but in an harsh style.

"The zeal of faith might speak on this head all the day long, mourning that the Christian should come from the (making of) idols into the church, from the workshop of the enemy into the house of God . . . that he should approach those hands to the body of the Lord, which bestow bodies on demons. Nor is this enough. It might be a small matter if they should receive from other hands that which they defile, but they themselves also deliver to others that which they have defiled. Makers of idols are chosen into the ministry of the Church. Horrid sin! The Jews laid violent hands but once upon Christ; these Christians every day assault His body. O hands worthy of being cut off! Let them now consider, whether it was said only in a figure, "If thine hand scandalize thee, cut it off?" What hands ought more to be cut off than those by which the body of the Lord is offended?"

De Idololatria, pp. 88-9.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 202

Explaining the petition of the Lord's prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread", he says:

"We may rather understand this spiritually. For Christ is our bread, because Christ is life, and bread is life. "I am, says He, the bread of life: and a little above, The bread is the Word of the living God who cometh down from Heaven. Then again, because in the bread is understood His body; "This is my body." Wherefore, in praying for daily bread, we beg a perpetuity in Christ, and an indivisibility from His body."

De Oratione, n.6. p. 131.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 202-203

"The flesh is fed with the body and blood of Christ, that the soul also may be fattened of God."

De Resurrect Carnis, n. 8, p. 330.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 203

St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236), Roman; bishop and martyr, probably a scholar of St. Irenæus of Lyons.

"And she [Wisdom] has furnished her table" [Proverbs 9:1] . . . refers to his [Christ's] honored and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper [i.e., the Last Supper]

Fragment from Commentary on Proverbs [A.D. 217]

Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"You who have been accustomed to be present at the divine mysteries, know that when you receive the body of the Lord, you take care, with all caution and veneration, lest any part thereof, however small, should fall, lest any portion of the consecrated gift should be lost. For if any part of it should fall, through your negligence, you think yourselves guilty; and you think rightly.

If then you use so much caution, and use it with so much reason, as regards the preserving the body, how think you it a slighter sin to have neglected the Word of God than the body of God>?"

T. ii. Hom. xiii. in Exod. n. 3, p. 176.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 207

"This law is set before thee, that when thou shalt receive the mystic bread, thou shalt eat it in a clean place, that is, that thou partake not of the sacraments of the Lord's body in a soul defiled, and polluted with sin. "For whosoever shall eat the bread, and 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." (1 Corinthians 11:27)

T. ii. Hom. xiii. in Lev. n. 5, p. 257.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 208-209


The Real Presence of Jesus

Christ is not present in this sacrament, according to His natural way of existence; that is, as bodies naturally exist; but in a manner proper to the character of His exalted and glorified body. His presence then is realand substantial, but sacramental; not exposed to the external senses, nor obnoxious to corporal contingencies.


The Church's Scriptures that support the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist:


The Eucharistic Discourse in John's Gospel, Jesus speaking:

51 I am the living bread which came down from Heaven ; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from Heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." 59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail *; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. 65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." 66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. 67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" 68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."

John 6:51-69

* For the meaning of "spirit and flesh" when put in contrast, see Romans 8:1-14.

Verse 63 confirms that we receive both the spiritual (spirit) and sacramental (life) of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Matthew's Account of the Last Supper:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:26-28

Mark's Account of the Last Supper:

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

Mark 14:22-25

Luke's Account of the Last Supper:

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:19-20

St. Paul proclaims and catechizes on the Mass.

16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?


1 Corinthians 10:16-21

Abuses of the Lord's Supper

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you meet together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

1 Corinthians 11:17-22

St. Paul proclaims and catechizes on the Mass.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.


1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Partaking of the Lord's Supper unworthily.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.


1 Corinthians 11:27-30

If the Eucharist were just a symbol, why does Paul say, "That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." If the Eucharist is just a symbol it shouldn't have effected them.


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