The Church has always believed that Our Lord Jesus, by the action of the Holy Spirit,
is truly and wholly present when the bread and wine have been consecrated to be His
Body and Blood.
This is such that, after this change during the great prayer of offering called
the Anaphora, we must be willing to say, without equivocation, that what we see and
partake of is the Body and Blood of Christ.
St. Ignatius of Antioch "I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures
of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who
was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible"
(Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).
"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" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).
St. Justin Martyr "We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake
of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in
the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received
baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common
drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by
the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have
been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer
set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both
the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
St. Irenaeus of Lyon "If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly
take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body
and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?" (Against Heresies 4:33–32 [A.D.
"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 receives the Word of God and becomes
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?" (ibid., 5:2).
Clement of Alexandria "’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]).
St. Cyprian of Carthage "He [Paul] threatens, moreover, the stubborn and forward,
and denounces them, saying, ‘Whosoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord
unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’ [1 Cor. 11:27]. All these
warnings being scorned and contemned—[lapsed Christians will often take Communion]
before their sin is expiated, before confession has been made of their crime, before
their conscience has been purged by sacrifice and by the hand of the priest, before
the offense of an angry and threatening Lord has been appeased, [and so] violence
is done to his body and blood; and they sin now against their Lord more with their
hand and mouth than when they denied their Lord" (The Lapsed 15–16 [A.D. 251]).
Aphraahat the Persian Sage "After having spoken thus [at the Last Supper], the Lord
rose up from the place where he had made the Passover and had given his body as food
and his blood as drink, and he went with his disciples to the place where he was
to be arrested. But he ate of his own body and drank of his own blood, while he was
pondering on the dead. With his own hands the Lord presented his own body to be eaten,
and before he was crucified he gave his blood as drink" (Treatises 12:6 [A.D. 340]).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem "The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation
of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been
made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ" (Catechetical
Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).
"Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that; for they are, according
to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses
suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by
taste, but be fully assured by the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed
worthy of the body and blood of Christ…[Since you are] fully convinced that the apparent
bread is not bread, even though it is sensible to the taste, but the body of Christ,
and that the apparent wine is not wine, even though the taste would have it so,…partake
of that bread as something spiritual, and put a cheerful face on your soul" (ibid.,
St. Ambrose of Milan "Perhaps you may be saying, ‘I see something else; how can you
assure me that I am receiving the body of Christ?’ It but remains for us to prove
it. And how many are the examples we might use!…Christ is in that sacrament, because
it is the body of Christ" (The Mysteries 9:50, 58 [A.D. 390]).
Bl. Augustine of Hippo "I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized,
a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table….That bread which
you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ.
That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word
of God, is the blood of Christ" (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).
"What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to
you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ
and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may
perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction" (ibid., 272).
Council of Ephesus "We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming the death, according
to the flesh, of the only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his
resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the unbloody
sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified,
having received his holy flesh and the precious blood of Christ the Savior of us
all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified
and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine
indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For
he is the life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his flesh,
he made it also to be life-giving" (Session 1, Letter of Cyril to Nestorius [A.D.
Fr. Fr. Joseph Bittle pastors the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.