16. EARLY CHURCH FATHERS AFFIRM THE TRUE PRESENCE (DIDACHE 60-110 AD, IGNATIUS 110 AD, IRENAEUS 189 AD)

As the Church continued to grow through the mission and martyrdom of the Apostles, writings and instructions by the early church fathers that are not considered sacred scripture began to circulate in Christian communities. In these works we continually see that the Eucharist is the center of the Christian life, and that it is proclaimed time and time again as the Body and Blood of Jesus. 

The oldest non-scriptural work in which the Eucharistic meal is mentioned is the Didache where it is mentioned multiple times. The Didache tells us that the Eucharistic meal was only shared with those who had been baptized into the Church and specifics were not dispersed on the actual celebration due to the secretive nature of the Eucharistic meal during times of persecution. In addition, the Didache gives us one of the earliest Eucharistic prayers.

Around 110 AD, two letters written by St. Ignatius of Antioch not only mention the Eucharist, but explicitly state that It is Jesus’ Body and Blood. In addition, Ignatius condemns those who refrain from receiving the Eucharist because they do not believe that it is the flesh of Jesus. Prior to his martyrdom, he desired no more earthly comforts or food save the bread and drink of God, namely the Flesh and Blood of Jesus.

At the end of the second century St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, defended the faith and the Eucharist from the Gnostic Heretics. In his book ‘Against Heresies,’ Irenaeus states that the cup and the bread receive the Word of God making the Blood and Body of Christ present.

Besides these mentioned, the list of Early Church Fathers who not only believed in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but taught it forcefully, often in the face of persecution, is a long one. St Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. Ephraim, St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory of Nanzianan, St. Basil the Great, and St. Augustine are only some of those Fathers. Even the First Council of Nicea in a statement on liturgical practices mentions the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Jesus. These men put into words what the whole Church believed and practiced on a daily basis. These written down testimonies are only an echo of the countless lived out testimonies of early Christian communion and martyrdom.

Originally published in Prime Soil Magazine | Vol. 1 No. 2

Originally presented at The 10th National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024

THE EUCHARISTIC TIMELINE

THE EUCHARISTIC TIMELINE

At the National Eucharistic Congress, Decided Excellence Catholic Media - with the help of Bishop William Waltersheid - will be presenting "Beautiful Revelation: The Eucharistic Timeline". Throughout human history, God has left repeated proof of His presence in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Salvation. God has given us the wisdom. Have you taken the time to understand? Read this spiritual journey through time to examine critical moments that God uses to reveal the truth of the Body of Christ.

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