Church “fathers” on the Eucharist

The following compilations and commentary below are from the work of Jason Engwer (who is not me, though I supplement his work at the end of this page, and by minute additions seen in [brackets]), and is offered here for non-commercial “fair use.” Any copying of his work should be attributed to him, and used for the glory of God.

Br. Engwer has moved on to blogging and his old web sites (, are no longer operative (2011), and I myself am not versed in all counter arguments, but Engwer can be reached through his blogger page. Br. Engwers is sometimes active on blogs as Triablogue, and also see such resources as those of the Beggars All blog, William Webster's site, Reformation500 site, James White's sites; both Vintage (which has more on Roman Catholicism) and the current one. Some of Jason's former work can be found on the Internet Archive file here, and at this site (no formal affiliation). Dates after sources in bracket are mine, from Wikipedia.

My home page is here.

For a custom Google search engine of these and other selected sites, see here. Please note however that this work or offered links cannot mean I may affirm all that is on a site, with all its conclusions, but that they are some of the best evangelical sites at least on the subject and hand, and contend for “repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Acts 20:21) by His grace through faith, and to His glory.

Engwer's compilations are from what are wrongly termed early “church fathers,” as in truth the church began and greatly grew before them, and its “fathers” are essentially only those who are found in Scripture, and which is the judge of all.

See page on church “fathers” and Scripture for more in regards to this.

Table of Contents. To return here, click on TOC

Eucharistic Presence and transubstantiation

Infant Communion

John 6

Sacrificial Nature of the Eucharist



Clement of Alexandria





Minucius Felix




Theophilus of Antioch





Clement of Alexandria




Justin Martyr

Supplement A

Eucharistic Presence

In previous segments, I've given examples of some of the earliest church fathers denying that Christians consume human blood, without exempting Christ's blood. Athenagoras is another example:

"But what need is there to speak of bodies not allotted to be the food of any animal, and destined only for a burial in the earth in honour of nature, since the Maker of the world has not alloted any animal whatsoever as food to those of the same kind, although some others of a different kind serve for food according to nature? If, indeed, they are able to show that the flesh of men was alloted to men for food, there will be nothing to hinder its being according to nature that they should eat one another, just like anything else that is allowed by nature, and nothing to prohibit those who dare to say such things from regaling themselves with the bodies of their dearest friends as delicacies, as being especially suited to them, and to entertain their living friends with the same fare. But if it be unlawful even to speak of this, and if for men to partake of the flesh of men is a thing most hateful and abominable, and more detestable than any other unlawful and unnatural food or act; and if what is against nature can never pass into nourishment for the limbs and parts requiring it, and what does not pass into nourishment can never become united with that which it is not adapted to nourish,-then can the bodies of men never combine with bodies like themselves, to which this nourishment would be against nature, even though it were to pass many times through their stomach, owing to some most bitter mischance" (On the Resurrection of the Dead, 8)

Athenagoras denies that anybody can cite *any* example of God telling us to eat human flesh. He repeatedly uses the word "never", without making any exemptions.

How likely is it that all of these fathers believed in transubstantiation, yet repeatedly denied that they consume human flesh and blood, in numerous ways in numerous contexts, without ever making any exemption for the eucharist?

Augustine believed in a eucharistic presence, but he defined that presence in a way that contradicts transubstantiation. For example:

"You know that in ordinary parlance we often say, when Easter is approaching, 'Tomorrow or the day after is the Lord's Passion,' although He suffered so many years ago, and His passion was endured once for all time. In like manner, on Easter Sunday, we say, 'This day the Lord rose from the dead,' although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for this reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually transpired, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the very day on which the event took place, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and the event itself being said to take place on that day, because, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? and yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true? For if sacraments had not some points of real resemblance to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all. In most cases, moreover, they do in virtue of this likeness bear the names of the realities which they resemble. As, therefore, in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ's body is Christ's body, and the sacrament of Christ's blood is Christ's blood,' in the same manner the sacrament of faith is faith." (Letter 98:9)

Augustine compares the eucharist to a holiday in that it has some similarities to what it symbolizes, but it isn't the same thing.

He says elsewhere:

"But He instructed them, and saith unto them, 'It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' Understand spiritually what I have said; ye are not to eat this body which ye see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth." (Expositions on the Psalms, 99:8)

Elsewhere, Augustine denies that there is any bodily presence of Christ in the church today:

"It may be also understood in this way: 'The poor ye will have always with you, but me ye will not have always.' The good may take it also as addressed to themselves, but not so as to be any source of anxiety; for He was speaking of His bodily presence. For in respect of His majesty, His providence, His ineffable and invisible grace, His own words are fulfilled, 'Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.' But in respect of the flesh He assumed as the Word, in respect of that which He was as the son of the Virgin, of that wherein He was seized by the Jews, nailed to the tree, let down from the cross, enveloped in a shroud, laid in the sepulchre, and manifested in His resurrection, 'ye will not have Him always.' And why? Because in respect of His bodily presence He associated for forty days with His disciples, and then, having brought them forth for the purpose of beholding and not of following Him, He ascended into heaven and is no longer here. He is there, indeed, sitting at the right hand of the Father; and He is here also, having never withdrawn the presence of His glory. In other words, in respect of His divine presence we always have Christ; in respect of His presence in the flesh it was rightly said to the disciples, 'Me ye will not have always.' In this respect the Church enjoyed His presence only for a few days: now it possesses Him by faith, without seeing Him with the eyes." (Lectures on the Gospel of John, 50:13)

Clement of Alexandria refers to Jesus drinking [actual] wine at the Last Supper, citing Matthew 26:29, and he refers to the Last Supper as an example of how Christians should conduct themselves when drinking wine:

"In what manner do you think the Lord drank when He became man for our sakes? As shamelessly as we? Was it not with decorum and propriety? Was it not deliberately? For rest assured, He Himself also partook of wine; for He, too, was man. And He blessed the wine, saying, 'Take, drink: this is my blood'--the blood of the vine. He figuratively calls the Word 'shed for many, for the remission of sins'--the holy stream of gladness. And that he who drinks ought to observe moderation, He clearly showed by what He taught at feasts. For He did not teach affected by wine. And that it was wine which was the thing blessed, He showed again, when He said to His disciples, 'I will not drink of the fruit of this vine, till I drink it with you in the kingdom of my Father.' But that it was wine which was drunk by the Lord, He tells us again, when He spake concerning Himself, reproaching the Jews for their hardness of heart: 'For the Son of man,' He says, 'came, and they say, Behold a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans.'" (The Instructor, 2:2)

Cyprian apparently didn't believe in transubstantiation. When arguing against those who wanted to use water alone rather than water mixed with wine in communion, Cyprian responds by referring to how water mixed with wine more accurately *represents* the blood of Christ. He says that the blood of Christ is made to *appear* to be in the cup by wine being in the cup. He goes on to describe the *drinking* of wine by Noah and other Old Testament figures as similar to Christian communion, thus suggesting that Cyprian saw the wine as remaining wine even when Christians drink it. Notice that he repeatedly refers to wine *and* blood together. He refers to the water in the communion cup as signifying the people of the world, citing Revelation 17:15. He obviously didn't think that the water was transubstantiated into people. Whatever view of the eucharist Cyprian held, and we aren't sure what it was, it wasn't transubstantiation:

"For when Christ says, 'I am the true vine.' the blood of Christ is assuredly not water, but wine; neither can His blood by which we are redeemed and quickened appear to be in the cup, when in the cup there is no wine whereby the blood of Christ is shown forth, which is declared by the sacrament and testimony of all the Scriptures. For we find in Genesis also, in respect of the sacrament in Noe, this same thing was to them a precursor and figure of the Lord's passion; that he drank wine; that he was drunken; that he was made naked in his household; that he was lying down with his thighs naked and exposed; that the nakedness of the father was observed by his second son, and was told abroad, but was covered by two, the eldest and the youngest; and other matters which it is not necessary to follow out, since this is enough for us to embrace alone, that Noe, setting forth a type of the future truth, did not drink water, but wine, and thus expressed the figure of the passion of the Lord....For who is more a priest of the most high God than our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered a sacrifice to God the Father, and offered that very same thing which Melchizedek had offered, that is, bread and wine, to wit, His body and blood?...

Moreover the Holy Spirit by Solomon shows before the type of the Lord's sacrifice, making mention of the immolated victim, and of the bread and wine, and, moreover, of the altar and of the apostles, and says, 'Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath underlaid her seven pillars; she hath killed her victims; she hath mingled her wine in the chalice; she hath also furnished her table: and she hath sent forth her servants, calling together with a lofty announcement to her cup, saying, Whoso is simple, let him turn to me; and to those that want understanding she hath said, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled for you.' He declares the wine mingled, that is, he foretells with prophetic voice the cup of the Lord mingled with water and wine, that it may appear that that was done in our Lord's passion which had been before predicted....

To which things divine Scripture adds, and says, 'He shall wash His garment in wine, and His clothing in the blood of the grape.' But when the blood of the grape is mentioned, what else is set forth than the wine of the cup of the blood of the Lord?...The treading also, and pressure of the wine-press, is repeatedly dwelt on; because just as the drinking of wine cannot be attained to unless the bunch of grapes be first trodden and pressed, so neither could we drink the blood of Christ unless Christ had first been trampled upon and pressed, and had first drunk the cup of which He should also give believers to drink....

In which portion we find that the cup which the Lord offered was mixed, and that that was wine which He called His blood. Whence it appears that the blood of Christ is not offered if there be no wine in the cup...the divine Scripture in the Apocalypse declares that the waters signify the people, saying, 'The waters which thou sawest, upon which the whore sitteth, are peoples and multitudes, and nations of the Gentiles, and tongues,' which we evidently see to be contained also in the sacrament of the cup. For because Christ bore us all, in that He also bore our sins, we see that in the water is understood the people, but in the wine is showed the blood of Christ. But when the water is mingled in the cup with wine, the people is made one with Christ, and the assembly of believers is associated and conjoined with Him on whom it believes; which association and conjunction of water and wine is so mingled in the Lord's cup, that that mixture cannot any more be separated....But the discipline of all religion and truth is overturned, unless what is spiritually prescribed be faithfully observed; unless indeed any one should fear in the morning sacrifices, lest by the taste of wine he should be redolent of the blood of Christ." (Letter 62:2-7, 62:9, 62:12-13, 62:15)

In addition to rejecting the Roman Catholic definition of the sacrificial nature of the eucharist, Eusebius also seems to have rejected the concept of a physical presence. He writes:

"And the fulfilment of the oracle is truly wondrous, to one who recognizes how our Saviour Jesus the Christ of God even now performs through His ministers even today sacrifices after the manner of Melchizedek's. For just as he, who was priest of the Gentiles, is not represented as offering outward sacrifices, but as blessing Abraham only with wine and bread, in exactly the same way our Lord and Saviour Himself first, and then all His priests among all nations, perform the spiritual sacrifice according to the customs of the Church, and with wine and bread darkly express the mysteries of His Body and saving Blood." (Demonstratio Evangelica, 5:3)

The phrase "only with wine and bread" suggests that there's no physical transformation or physical addition to the elements. Eusebius repeatedly uses words like "memorial", "figure", and "symbol" when describing the eucharistic elements:

"The words, 'His eyes are cheerful from wine, and his teeth white as milk,' again I think secretly reveal the mysteries of the new Covenant of our Saviour. 'His eyes are cheerful from wine,' seems to me to shew the gladness of the mystic wine which He gave to His disciples, when He said, 'Take, drink; this is my blood that is shed for you for the remission of sins: this do in remembrance of me.' And, 'His teeth are white as milk,' shew the brightness and purity of the sacramental food. For again, He gave Himself the symbols of His divine dispensation to His disciples, when He bade them make the likeness of His own Body. For since He no more was to take pleasure in bloody sacrifices, or those ordained by Moses in the slaughter of animals of various kinds, and was to give them bread to use as the symbol of His Body, He taught the purity and brightness of such food by saying, 'And his teeth are white as milk.' This also another prophet has recorded, where he says, 'Sacrifice and offering hast thou not required, but a body hast thou prepared for me.'" (Demonstratio Evangelica, 8:1)

While it's true that a Roman Catholic could refer to symbols, figures, etc. within the eucharist, how likely is it that a Roman Catholic would use such terminology so frequently, without any qualifications?

Just after the first passage I cited above, after referring to the eucharist and its figurative nature, Eusebius writes:

"This by the Holy Spirit Melchizedek foresaw, and used the figures of what was to come, as the Scripture of Moses witnesses, when it says: 'And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine: and he was priest of the Most High God, and he blessed Abraham.'" (Demonstratio Evangelica, 5:3)

When Eusebius says that Melchizedek offered "figures" of Calvary, does he mean that Melchizedek offered something that was both figurative *and* a transubstantiation? No, what Eusebius is saying is that Melchizedek offered something that was only figurative.

The Roman bishop Gelasius rejected transubstantiation:

"The sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, which we receive, is a divine thing, because by it we are made partakers of the divine-nature. Yet the substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease. And assuredly the image and the similitude of the body and blood of Christ are celebrated in the performance of the mysteries." (cited in Philip Schaff, 95) [Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J. Comments,

According to Gelasius, the sacraments of the Eucharist communicate the grace of the principal mystery. His main concern, however, is to stress, as did Theodoret, the fact that after the consecration the elements remain what they were before the consecration. Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J., "œThe Eucharistic Theology of Pope Gelasius I: A Nontridentine View"� in Studia Patristica, Vol. XXIX (Leuven: Peeters, 1997), p. 288.]

Irenaeus denied transubstantiation. He seems to have believed in consubstantiation rather than the Catholic view of the eucharist. For example:

"For as the bread, which is produced from thee earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity." (Against Heresies, 4:18:5)

"For this reason, when about to undergo His sufferings, that He might declare to Abraham and those with him the glad tidings of the inheritance being thrown open, Christ, after He had given thanks while holding the cup, and had drunk of it, and given it to the disciples, said to them: 'Drink ye all of it: this is My blood of the new covenant, which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of this vine, until that day when I will drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.' Thus, then, He will Himself renew the inheritance of the earth, and will re-organize the mystery of the glory of His sons; as David says, 'He who hath renewed the face of the earth.' He promised to drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples, thus indicating both these points: the inheritance of the earth in which the new fruit of the vine is drunk, and the resurrection of His disciples in the flesh. For the new flesh which rises again is the same which also received the new cup. And He cannot by any means be understood as drinking of the fruit of the vine when settled down with his disciples above in a super-celestial place; nor, again, are they who drink it devoid of flesh, for to drink of that which flows from the vine pertains to flesh, and not spirit." (Against Heresies, 5:33:1)

Irenaeus describes the eucharist as consisting of two realities, one that comes from Heaven and another that's from the earth. He refers to the eucharist as an example of drinking wine, the same substance that people will drink in Christ's future kingdom, after the eucharist has served its purpose (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Roman Catholics often refer to how central the eucharist is in their denomination. They loudly and frequently tell people of their belief that they consume the physical flesh and blood of Christ. Converts to Roman Catholicism often cite the eucharist, particularly belief in a physical transformation of the elements, as one of the reasons they converted, if not *the* main reason.

Would such a person write the following, in response to the charge that Christians murder infants and drink their blood:

"And now I should wish to meet him who says or believes that we are initiated by the slaughter and blood of an infant. Think you that it can be possible for so tender, so little a body to receive those fatal wounds; for any one to shed, pour forth, and drain that new blood of a youngling, and of a man scarcely come into existence? No one can believe this, except one who can dare to do it. And I see that you at one time expose your begotten children to wild beasts and to birds; at another, that you crush them when strangled with a miserable kind of death. There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels, and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth. And these things assuredly come don from the teaching of your gods. For Saturn did not expose his children, but devoured them. With reason were infants sacrificed to him by parents in some parts of Africa, caresses and kisses repressing their crying, that a weeping victim might not be sacrificed. Moreover, among the Tauri of Pontus, and to the Egyptian Busiris, it was a sacred rite to immolate their guests, and for the Galli to slaughter to Mercury human, or rather inhuman, sacrifices. The Roman sacrificers buried living a Greek man and a Greek woman, a Gallic man and a Gallic woman; and to this day, Jupiter Latiaris is worshipped by them with murder; and, what is worthy of the son of Saturn, he is gorged with the blood of an evil and criminal man. I believe that he himself taught Catiline to conspire under a compact of blood, and Bellona to steep her sacred rites with a draught of human gore, and taught men to heal epilepsy with the blood of a man, that is, with a worse disease. They also are not unlike to him who devour the wild beasts from the arena, besmeared and stained with blood, or fattened with the limbs or the entrails of men. To us it is not lawful either to see or to hear of homicide; and so much do we shrink from human blood, that we do not use the blood even of eatable animals in our food." - Minucius Felix and Octavius (The Octavius of Minucius Felix, 30)

Would a Roman Catholic make such comments without exempting the body and blood of Christ? Would a Roman Catholic say that he's so opposed to consuming human blood that he even refrains from animal blood? Would you criticize non-Christians who consume flesh and blood in their religious ceremonies? Any Roman Catholic who would use such argumentation would be leaving himself open to charges of dishonesty and hypocrisy.

Origen didn't believe in transubstantiation. He refers to Christians consuming bread in communion, explains that the bread itself doesn't profit those who consume it, and contrasts that bread with the person of Christ:

"Now, if 'everything that entereth into the mouth goes into the belly and is cast out into the drought,' even the meat which has been sanctified through the word of God and prayer, in accordance with the fact that it is material, goes into the belly and is cast out into the draught, but in respect of the prayer which comes upon it, according to the proportion of the faith, becomes a benefit and is a means of clear vision to the mind which looks to that which is beneficial, and it is not the material of the bread but the word which is said over it which is of advantage to him who eats it not unworthily of the Lord. And these things indeed are said of the typical and symbolical body. But many things might be said about the Word Himself who became flesh, and true meat of which he that eateth shall assuredly live for ever, no worthless person being able to eat it; for if it were possible for one who continues worthless to eat of Him who became flesh, who was the Word and the living bread, it would not have been written, that 'every one who eats of this bread shall live for ever.'" (On Matthew, 11:14)

Tertullian rejected transubstantiation:

"Will not your [unbelieving] husband know what it is which you secretly taste before taking any food? and if he knows it to be bread, does he not believe it to be that bread which it is said to be?" (To His Wife, 2:5)

"Now, because they thought His discourse was harsh and intolerable, supposing that He had really and literally enjoined on them to eat his flesh, He, with the view of ordering the state of salvation as a spiritual thing, set out with the principle, 'It is the spirit that quickeneth;' and then added, 'The flesh profiteth nothing,'--meaning, of course, to the giving of life." (On the Ressurection of the Flesh, 37)

"Indeed, up to the present time, he has not disdained the water which the Creator made wherewith he washes his people; nor the oil with which he anoints them; nor that union of honey and milk wherewithal he gives them the nourishment of children; nor the bread by which he represents his own proper body, thus requiring in his very sacraments the 'beggarly elements' of the Creator." (Against Marcion, 1:14)

"Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, 'This is my body,' that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body. An empty thing, or phantom, is incapable of a figure....In order, however, that you may discover how anciently wine is used as a figure for blood, turn to Isaiah, who asks, 'Who is this that cometh from Edom, from Bosor with garments dyed in red, so glorious in His apparel, in the greatness of his might? Why are thy garments red, and thy raiment as his who cometh from the treading of the full winepress?' The prophetic Spirit contemplates the Lord as if He were already on His way to His passion, clad in His fleshly nature; and as He was to suffer therein, He represents the bleeding condition of His flesh under the metaphor of garments dyed in red, as if reddened in the treading and crushing process of the wine-press, from which the labourers descend reddened with the wine-juice, like men stained in blood. Much more clearly still does the book of Genesis foretell this, when (in the blessing of Judah, out of whose tribe Christ was to come according to the flesh) it even then delineated Christ in the person of that patriarch, saying, 'He washed His garments in wine, and His clothes in the blood of grapes' -in His garments and clothes the prophecy pointed out his flesh, and His blood in the wine. Thus did He now consecrate His blood in wine, who then (by the patriarch) used the figure of wine to describe His blood." (Against Marcion, 4:40)

"For even after the consecration the mystic symbols [of the eucharist] are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before." - Theodoret (Dialogues, 2)

The second century church father Theophilus apparently disagreed with the Roman Catholic view of the eucharist. He denies that Christians eat human flesh. He makes no exemption for the flesh of Christ. Would a Roman Catholic make such a comment without any clarification? Instead of explaining that Christians eat only Christ's flesh, not anybody else's, Theophilus denies that they eat any human flesh. If he was trying to correct a misunderstanding about *whose* flesh was being eaten, you would think he would focus on that subject. Instead, he just denies that human flesh is being eaten at all:

"Nor indeed was there any necessity for my refuting these, except that I see you still in dubiety about the word of the truth. For though yourself prudent, you endure fools gladly. Otherwise you would not have been moved by senseless men to yield yourself to empty words, and to give credit to the prevalent rumor wherewith godless lips falsely accuse us, who are worshippers of God, and are called Christians, alleging that the wives of us all are held in common and made promiscuous use of; and that we even commit incest with our own sisters, and, what is most impious and barbarous of all, that we eat human flesh." (Theophilus to Autolycus, 3:4)

"If any one saith, that the communion of the Eucharist is necessary for little children, before they have arrived at years of discretion; let him be anathema." - Council of Trent (session 21, "On Communion Under Both Species, and on the Communion of Infants", canon 4)

"Will, however, any man be so bold as to say that this statement has no relation to infants, and that they can have life in them without partaking of His body and blood--on the ground that He does not say, Except one eat, but 'Except ye eat;' as if He were addressing those who were able to hear and to understand, which of course infants cannot do? But he who says this is inattentive...From all this it follows, that even for the life of infants was His flesh given, which He gave for the life of the world; and that even they will not have life if they eat not the flesh of the Son of man." - Augustine (On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, 1:27)

The Roman Catholic Church has restricted the reception of the eucharist to people who have reached the age of reason (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1244), but some of the church fathers advocated the practice of infant communion. Some even taught that participating in communion was necessary for the salvation of infants. The Protestant historian Philip Schaff wrote:

"In the Oriental and North African churches prevailed the incongruous custom of infant communion, which seemed to follow from infant baptism, and was advocated by Augustine and Innocent I. on the authority of John vi. 53. In the Greek church this custom continues to this day, but in the Latin, after the ninth century, it was disputed or forbidden, because the apostle (1 Cor. xi. 28, 29) requires self-examination as the condition of worthy participation," section 97)

The Innocent I Schaff refers to was a Roman bishop. Thus, we have another example of modern Roman Catholic teaching not only being unknown in Rome, but even being contradicted there.

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge comments:

"In the primitive Church, the newly baptized were immediately admitted to communion; and with the growing frequency of infant baptism the same custom was still maintained. Cyprian (De lapsis, ix.) speaks of children who at the outset of their lives have received 'the meat and drink of the Lord,' and similar evidence may be collected from the Apostolic Constitutions, Dionysius the Areopagite, Paulinus of Nola (d. 431), and Gennadiue of Marseilles (c. 492). The necessity of communion to salvation being taught on the basis of John vi. 53, this argument is applied to the communion of infants by Augustine and by Innocent I."

Cyprian refers to an infant taking part in communion. His comments about the child resisting the wine aren't meant to be a condemnation of infant communion. Rather, Cyprian is describing what happened to a child whose mother had sinned, a child who had been fed with sacrifices to idols after being abandoned by her mother. Thus, Cyprian approves of infant communion, but he disapproves of an unrepentant mother bringing her child, who had been corrupted by taking part in idolatrous practices, to take part in communion. Notice that Cyprian refers to the mother failing to deceive "God's priest", thus suggesting that Cyprian approved of the priest practicing infant communion:

"When, however, the solemnities were finished, and the deacon began to offer the cup to those present, and when, as the rest received it, its turn approached, the little child, by the instinct of the divine majesty, turned away its face, compressed its mouth with resisting lips, and refused the cup. Still the deacon persisted, and, although against her efforts, forced on her some of the sacrament of the cup. Then there followed a sobbing and vomiting. In a profane body and mouth the Eucharist could not remain; the draught sanctified in the blood of the Lord burst forth from the polluted stomach. So great is the Lord's power, so great is His majesty. The secrets of darkness were disclosed under His light, and not even hidden crimes deceived God's priest. This much about an infant, which was not yet of an age to speak of the crime committed by others in respect of herself." (Treatise 3, On the Lapsed, 25-26)

Cyprian also implies his acceptance of infant communion elsewhere in the same document (9).

John 6

When Jesus spoke the words of John 6, the eucharist hadn't yet been instituted. He said that He *is* the bread of life, and that people *are* responsible for eating His flesh and drinking His blood, even though there was no eucharist yet. He identified the eating and drinking for us in verse 35, and it isn't participation in a transubstantiated eucharist.

Some of the church fathers, even some who believed in a type of presence of Christ in the eucharist, rejected the Roman Catholic interpretation of John 6. For example:

"If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. 'Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,' says Christ, 'and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.' This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us." - Augustine (On Christian Doctrine, 3:16:24)

"'He that eateth me,' He says, 'he also shall live because of me;' for we eat His flesh, and drink His blood, being made through His incarnation and His visible life partakers of His Word and of His Wisdom. For all His mystic sojourn among us He called flesh and blood, and set forth the teaching consisting of practical science, of physics, and of theology, whereby our soul is nourished and is meanwhile trained for the contemplation of actual realities. This is perhaps the intended meaning of what He says." - Basil (Letter 8:4)

"Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: 'Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood,' describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both,--of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood. For in reality the blood of faith is hope, in which faith is held as by a vital principle." - Clement of Alexandria (The Instructor, 1:6)

"He says, it is true, that 'the flesh profiteth nothing;' but then, as in the former case, the meaning must be regulated by the subject which is spoken of. Now, because they thought His discourse was harsh and intolerable, supposing that He had really and literally enjoined on them to eat his flesh, He, with the view of ordering the state of salvation as a spiritual thing, set out with the principle, 'It is the spirit that quickeneth;' and then added, 'The flesh profiteth nothing,'--meaning, of course, to the giving of life. He also goes on to explain what He would have us to understand by spirit: 'The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' In a like sense He had previously said: 'He that heareth my words, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but shall pass from death unto life.' Constituting, therefore, His word as the life-giving principle, because that word is spirit and life, He likewise called His flesh by the same appelation; because, too, the Word had become flesh, we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith. Now, just before the passage in hand, He had declared His flesh to be 'the bread which cometh down from heaven,' impressing on His hearers constantly under the figure of necessary food the memory of their forefathers, who had preferred the bread and flesh of Egypt to their divine calling." - Tertullian (On the Ressurection of the Flesh, 37)

Sacrificial Nature of the Eucharist

The church fathers viewed the eucharist as a sacrifice, but defined the sacrificial nature of it in different ways, including ways that contradict Roman Catholicism. In a previous segment in this series, I documented Justin Martyr contradicting the Roman Catholic definition of the sacrificial nature of the eucharist. Eusebius also disagreed with Roman Catholicism on this issue. He writes:

"And then 'He made him sin for our sakes who knew no sin,' and laid on Him all the punishments due to us for our sins, bonds, insults, contumelies, scourging, and shameful blows, and the crowning trophy of the Cross. And after all this when He had offered such a wondrous offering and choice victim to the Father, and sacrificed for the salvation of us all, He delivered a memorial to us to offer to God continually instead of a sacrifice." (Demonstratio Evangelica, 1:10)

The question isn't whether Eusebius viewed the eucharist as a sacrifice. All professing Christians consider the eucharist a sacrifice in *some* sense, at least the sense of Hebrews 13:15. The question, then, is what Eusebius means when he says in the passage above that the eucharist is *not* a sacrifice. We know, from the context, that he just described Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. He had to be denying that the eucharist is a sacrifice in that sense. Thus, he's rejecting the Roman Catholic assertion that the eucharist is a re-presentation of Calvary.

This conclusion is further confirmed by what Eusebius goes on to say. He compares the eucharist to other *spiritual* sacrifices, and he refers to how the eucharist is a *non-corporeal* sacrifice:

"Here it is plainly the mystic Chrism and the holy Sacrifices of Christ's Table that are meant, by which we are taught to offer to Almighty God through our great High Priest all through our life the celebration of our sacrifices, bloodless, reasonable, and well-pleasing to Him....And this very thing the great prophet Isaiah wonderfully foreknew by the Holy Spirit, and foretold. And he therefore says thus: 'O Lord, my God, I will glorify thee, I will hymn thy name, for thou hast done marvellous things.' And he goes on to explain what these things so truly 'wonderful' are: 'And the Lord of Sabaoth shall make a feast for all the nations. They shall drink joy, they shall drink wine, they shall be anointed with myrrh (on this mountain). Impart thou all these things to the nations. For this is God's counsel upon all the nations.' These were Isaiah's 'wonders,' the promise of the anointing with ointment of a good smell, and with myrrh made not to Israel but to all nations. Whence not unnaturally through the chrism of myrrh they gained the name of Christians. But he also prophesies the 'wine of joy' to the nations, darkly alluding to the sacrament of the new covenant of Christ, which is now openly celebrated among the nations. And these unembodied and spiritual sacrifices the oracle of the prophet also proclaims, in a certain place: 'Offer to God the sacrifice of praise, and give the Highest thy vows: And call upon me in the day of thy affliction, and I will deliver thee, and thou shall glorify me.' And again: 'The lifting up of my hands is an evening sacrifice.' And once more: 'The sacrifice of God is a contrite spirit.' And so all these predictions of immemorial prophecy are being fulfilled at this present time through the teaching of our Saviour among all nations. Truth bears witness with the prophetic voice with which God, rejecting the Mosaic sacrifices, foretells that the future lies with us: 'Wherefore from the rising of the sun unto the setting my name shall be glorified among the nations. And in every place incense shall be offered to my name, and a pure offering.' We sacrifice, therefore, to Almighty God a sacrifice of praise. We sacrifice the divine and holy and sacred offering. We sacrifice anew according to the new covenant the pure sacrifice. But the sacrifice to God is called 'a contrite heart.' 'A humble and a contrite heart thou wilt not despise.' Yes, and we offer the incense of the prophet, in every place bringing to Him the sweet-smelling fruit of the sincere Word of God, offering it in our prayers to Him. This yet another prophet teaches, who says: 'Let my prayer be as incense in thy sight.' So, then, we sacrifice and offer incense: On the one hand when we celebrate the Memorial of His great Sacrifice according to the Mysteries He delivered to us, and bring to God the Eucharist for our salvation with holy hymns and prayers; while on the other we consecrate ourselves to Him alone and to the Word His High Priest, devoted to Him in body and soul. Therefore we are careful to keep our bodies pure and undefiled from all evil, and we bring our hearts purified from every passion and stain of sin, and worship Him with sincere thoughts, real intention, and true beliefs. For these are more acceptable to Him, so we are taught, than a multitude of sacrifices offered with blood and smoke and fat." (Demonstratio Evangelica, 1:10)

Eusebius describes the eucharistic sacrifice as "a memorial" that we offer "instead of a sacrifice". He describes the sacrifice of the eucharist as "unembodied and spiritual". Just after quoting Malachi 1:11, he says that the sacrifice of praise is the sacrifice to which Malachi is referring.

Elsewhere, Eusebius tells us:

"And the fulfilment of the oracle is truly wondrous, to one who recognizes how our Saviour Jesus the Christ of God even now performs through His ministers even today sacrifices after the manner of Melchizedek's. For just as he, who was priest of the Gentiles, is not represented as offering outward sacrifices, but as blessing Abraham only with wine and bread, in exactly the same way our Lord and Saviour Himself first, and then all His priests among all nations, perform the spiritual sacrifice according to the customs of the Church, and with wine and bread darkly express the mysteries of His Body and saving Blood." (Demonstratio Evangelica, 5:3)

Irenaeus believed that the eucharist is a spiritual sacrifice in the sense of Hebrews 13:15, not a sacrifice in the sense that Roman Catholicism teaches:

"Those who have become acquainted with the secondary (i.e., under Christ) constitutions of the apostles, are aware that the Lord instituted a new oblation in the new covenant, according to the declaration of Malachi the prophet. For, 'from the rising of the sun even to the setting my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice;' as John also declares in the Apocalypse: 'The incense is the prayers of the saints.' Then again, Paul exhorts us 'to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.' And again, 'Let us offer the sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of the lips.' Now those oblations are not according to the law, the handwriting of which the Lord took away from the midst by cancelling it; but they are according to the Spirit, for we must worship God 'in spirit and in truth.' And therefore the oblation of the Eucharist is not a carnal one, but a spiritual; and in this respect it is pure. For we make an oblation to God of the bread and the cup of blessing, giving Him thanks in that He has commanded the earth to bring forth these fruits for our nourishment. And then, when we have perfected the oblation, we invoke the Holy Spirit, that He may exhibit this sacrifice, both the bread the body of Christ, and the cup the blood of Christ, in order that the receivers of these antitypes may obtain remission of sins and life eternal. Those persons, then, who perform these oblations in remembrance of the Lord, do not fall in with Jewish views, but, performing the service after a spiritual manner, they shall be called sons of wisdom." (Fragments, 37).

Justin Martyr explains that the eucharist is a sacrifice only in the sense of Hebrews 13:15, only in the sense of offering prayers and thanksgiving:

"Accordingly, God, anticipating all the sacrifices which we offer through this name, and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to offer, i.e., in the Eucharist of the bread and the cup, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him. But He utterly rejects those presented by you and by those priests of yours, saying, 'And I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles (He says); but ye profane it.' Yet even now, in your love of contention, you assert that God does not accept the sacrifices of those who dwelt then in Jerusalem, and were called Israelites; but says that He is pleased with the prayers of the individuals of that nation then dispersed, and calls their prayers sacrifices. Now, that prayers and giving of thanks, when offered by worthy men, are the only perfect and well-pleasing sacrifices to God, I also admit. For such alone Christians have undertaken to offer, and in the remembrance effected by their solid and liquid food, whereby the suffering of the Son of God which He endured is brought to mind, whose name the high priests of your nation and your teachers have caused to be profaned and blasphemed over all the earth. But these filthy garments, which have been put by you on all who have become Christians by the name of Jesus, God shows shall be taken away from us, when He shall raise all men from the dead, and appoint some to be incorruptible, immortal, and free from sorrow in the everlasting and imperishable kingdom; but shall send others away to the everlasting punishment of fire. But as to you and your teachers deceiving yourselves when you interpret what the Scripture says as referring to those of your nation then in dispersion, and maintain that their prayers and sacrifices offered in every place are pure and well-pleasing, learn that you are speaking falsely, and trying by all means to cheat yourselves: for, first of all, not even now does your nation extend from the rising to the setting of the sun, but there are nations among which none of your race ever dwelt. For there is not one single race of men, whether barbarians, or Greeks, or whatever they may be called, nomads, or vagrants, or herdsmen living in tents, among whom prayers and giving of thanks are not offered through the name of the crucified Jesus. And then, as the Scriptures show, at the time when Malachi wrote this, your dispersion over all the earth, which now exists, had not taken place." (Dialogue with Trypho, 117) TOC

Supplement A

Here is a exegesis of this issue i did some time ago.

In addition, every physical miracle that Christ did result in actual change, such as that the water actually tasted and looked like wine in Jn. 2. Related to this, around 831-33, Paschasius Radbertus wrote De corpora et sanguine Domini, articulating the view that in the moment of consecration, the bread and wine on the altar became identical with the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In response, saint Ratramnus wrote his work, also entitled De corpora et sanguine Domini, and used the same two distinguishing terms between figura (figure) and veritas (truth) to describe the Eucharist as Paschasius did, but for Ratramnus, veritas meant “perceptible to the senses,” so the Eucharist could not truly be Christ’s body and blood, as it did not change in appearance according to the senses, but remained bread and wine, nor was it literally Christ’s historical incarnate body. (McCracken, Early Medieval Theology, 111)

Ratramnus states,

Certain of the faithful say that of the body and the and blood of Christ, which is celebrated daily in the church, nothing happens in the form of a figure or under a hidden symbol, but that it is an open manifestation of truth. Others, however, hold that these elements take the form of the mystery, so that it is one thing which appears to the physical senses, and something different which is discerned by faith...

There is no small difference between these two. And although the apostle writes to believers, telling them that they should all hold the same opinions and say the same things, and that no schism should appear among them, yet when they state such totally different views on the Ministry of the body and blood of Christ, they are indeed divided by a schism...

The bread , which through the ministry of the priest, becomes the body of Christ, exhibits one thing externally to human senses, and points to something different inwardly to the minds of believers. Externally, the bread has the same shape, color, and flavor as before: inwardly however, something very different, something much more precious and excellent, is made known, because something heavenly and Divine — that is, the body of Christ — is revealed.

This is not perceived or received or consumed by the physical senses, but only in the sight of the believer. The wine also becomes the sacrament of the blood of Christ through priestly consecration. Superficially, it shows one thing: yet inwardly, it contains something else. What can be seen on the surface , other than the substance of wine? Taste it, and it has the flavor of wine: smell it, and it has the aroma of one: look at it, and see the color of wine... since nobody can deny that this is the case, it is clear that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ in a figurative sense.

After the mystical consecration, when they are no longer called bread and wine, but the body and blood of Christ, as far is the external appearance is concerned, the likeness of flesh cannot be discerned in that bread, just as the liquid of blood, cannot be seen... how then can they be called the body and blood of Christ when no change can be seen to have taken place... As far as the physical appearance of both are concerned, they seem to be things which had been physically created. However , as far as their power is concerned in that they had been treated spiritually, they are the mysteries of the body and blood of Christ.

Protestant theologian Alister McGrath (Oxford, King's College) whose “The Christian theology reader” supplies the above source, comments that,

Ratranmus attracted no criticism at the time for his insistence that there was no ontological change in the bread and wine: however, by about 1050 there was an increasing concern over his views, given the growing sympathy for the view which would later be known as "transubstantiation."

Tertullian, while supporting a Real Presence , also holds to a symbolic view in Jn. 6, but which we see as applying to the other penitent texts:

Now, because they thought His discourse was harsh and intolerable, supposing that He had really and literally enjoined on them to eat his flesh, He, with the view of ordering the state of salvation as a spiritual thing, set out with the principle, 'It is the spirit that quickeneth;' and then added, 'The flesh profiteth nothing,'--meaning, of course, to the giving of life. He also goes on to explain what He would have us to understand by spirit: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." In a like sense He had previously said: "He that hears my words, and believes in Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but shall pass from death unto life." John 5:24 Constituting, therefore, His word as the life-giving principle, because that word is spirit and life, He likewise called His flesh by the same appellation; because, too, the Word had become flesh, John 1:14 we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and todigest Him by faith. (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 37) TOC