Q. A Protestant told me that the early Church believed that Jesus was only symbolically present in the Eucharist and that the doctrine of the Real Presence came about eleven centuries later. Is he correct?

A. Not true! Jesus' own words in Scripture tell us: "Take and eat; this is My Body. Take and drink; this is My Blood of the New Covenant which shall be shed for many" (cf. Matt. 26:26-27; Mark 14:22, 24; Luke 22: 19-20) and "... Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life" (John 6:54). The early Church accepted these words literally as she still does today.

Ignatius of Antioch who was a disciple of the Apostle John and who wrote an epistle to the Christians of Smyrna condemned those that "abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of Our Savior Jesus Christ."

And Origen, in a homily given about 244 A.D. attested to belief in the Real Presence and admonished his listeners to take care "lest a particle of it (the consecrated bread) fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish."

Athanasius of Alexandria, told the newly baptized in 373: "So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been made, then the bread is the Body , and the wine the Blood, of Our Lord Jesus Christ."

Dozens of testimonies could be given. Suffice it to say that it is certain the early Church took chapter 6 of John literally. There exists no document with a symbolic interpretation.

Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Newsletter
October, 1989