The doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist has been around since the very beginning of the church. For the first several hundred years of Christianity the Real Presence was understood. It was taken for granted. It wasn't questioned. The early Christians didn't doubt Christ's true presence in the Eucharist. Quite the contrary.
Here are a few quotes from some of those earliest Christians affirming this most important doctrine of our faith.
Paul (1 Cor 10:15-16)
"I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?"
St. Ignatius of Antioch, (c. 110 A.D.)
"Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead." (Letter to the Smyrnaeans)
"I have no taste for the food that perishes nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the Bread of God which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood which is love that cannot be destroyed." (Letter to the Romans)
St. Justin Martyr (c. 100 - 165 A.D.)
"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, 66)
St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 216 A.D.)
"The Word is everything to a child: both Father and Mother, both Instructor and Nurse. 'Eat My Flesh,' He 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. O incredible mystery!" (Instructor of Children)
St. Basil the Great (c. 330 - 379 A.D.)
"What is the mark of a Christian? That he be purified of all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit in the Blood of Christ, perfecting sanctification in the fear of God and the love of Christ, and that he have no blemish nor spot nor any such thing; that he be holy and blameless and so eat the Body of Christ and drink His Blood; for 'he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgement to himself.' What is the mark of those who eat the Bread and drink the Cup of Christ? That they keep in perpetual remembrance Him who died for us and rose again." (The Morals, 22)
St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 - 394 A.D.)
"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)
St. Jerome (c. 347 - 420 A.D.)
"After the type had been fulfilled by the Passover celebration and He had eaten the flesh of the lamb with His Apostles, He takes bread which strengthens the heart of man, and goes on to the true Sacrament of the Passover, so that just as Melchisedech, the priest of the Most High God, in prefiguring Him, made bread and wine an offering, He too makes Himself manifest in the reality of His own Body and Blood." (Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew 4:26:26)
St. Augustine (c. 354 - 430 A.D.)
"You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. The chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ." (Sermons 227)
St. Leo the Great (461 A.D.)
"When the Lord says: 'Unless you shall have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man and shall have drunk His blood, you shall not have life in you,' you ought to so communicate at the Sacred Table that you have no doubt whatever of the truth of the Body and the Blood of Christ. For that which is taken in the mouth is what is believed in faith; and in do those respond, 'Amen,' who argue against that which is received."
Peace in Christ,
© Melissa Knoblett-Aman