Augustine and the eucharist


i have a friend who says that augustine didn’t hold for real presence and that his teaching on the eucharist is completely different from what the Catholic Church teaches. i asked him for some proof and he wasn’t able to give it to me, so i can’t really engage him until he brings me something from augustine. is this a common objection non-Catholics make? what do they cite in support of this?


Here’s how I answered this in another thread:

Maybe this article clears it up?

Here are some quotes by Augustine from that article:*The bread which you see on the altar is, sanctified by the word of God, the body of Christ; that chalice, or rather what is contained in the chalice, is, sanctified by the word of God, the blood of Christ. {Sermo 227; on p.377}

Christ bore Himself in His hands, when He offered His body saying: “this is my body.” {Enarr. in Ps. 33 Sermo 1, 10; on p.377}

Nobody eats this flesh without previously adoring it. {Enarr. in Ps. 98, 9; on p.387}

[Referring to the sacrifice of Melchizedek (Gen 14:18 ff.)] The sacrifice appeared for the first time there which is now offered to God by Christians throughout the whole world. {City of God, 16, 22; on p.403}

Christ is both the priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the sacramental sign of this should be the daily sacrifice of the Church. {Ibid, 10, 20; on p.99}*


There are legit questions on whether St. Augustine held to “transubstantiation” but he otherwise had a very Catholic view:

Schaff on Augustine and Eucharist:

“But, on the other hand, he calls the celebration of the communion -verissimum sacrificium- (a true sacrifice) of the body of Christ. The church, he says, offers (immolat) to God the sacrifice of thanks in the body of Christ, from the days of the apostles through the sure succession of the bishops down to our time. But the church at the same time offers, with Christ, herself, as the body of Christ, to God. As all are one body, so also all are together the same sacrifice [De civit Dei 10:20].” (History of the Christian Church, vol 3, page 507)

“The subject of the sacrifice is the body of Jesus Christ, which is as TRULY PRESENT on the altar of the church, as it once was on the altar of the cross, and which now offers itself to God through his priest. Hence the frequent language of the liturgies: ‘Thou art he who offerest, and who art offered, O Christ, our God.’ Augustine, however, connects with this, as we have already said, the true and important moral idea of the self-sacrifice of the whole redeemed church to God. The prayers of the liturgies do the same.” (page 508)

“Even St. Augustine, with Tertullian, teaches plainly, as an OLD tradition, that the eucharistic sacrifice, the intercessions or -suffragia- and alms, of the living are of benefit to the departed believers, so that the Lord deals more mercifully with them than their sins deserve [Serm 172:2]. His noble mother, Monica, when dying, told him he might bury her body where he pleased, and should give himself no concern for it, only she begged of him that he would remember her SOUL at the altar of the Lord [Confess 1:9:27].” (page 510)

JND Kelly on Augustine and Eucharist:

"‘This sacrifice,’ he [Augustine] remarks [De civ dei 17:20:2], ‘succeeded all those sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were slaughtered in anticipation of what was to come…For instead of all those sacrifices and oblations His BODY IS OFFERED, and is DISTRIBUTED to the participants.’

“The Christian supper presupposes the death on the cross [Serm 112:1]. The self-same Christ Who was slain there is in a real sense slaughtered daily [sacramentally in an unbloody manner] by the faithful, so that the sacrifice which was offered once for all in bloody form is sacramentally RENEWED upon our altars with the OBLATION of His BODY AND BLOOD [Ep 98:9; C. Faust 20:18; 20:21]. From this it is clear that, if the eucharistic sacrifice is essentially a ‘similitude’ or ‘memorial’ of Calvary, it includes MUCH MORE than that. In the first place, it involves a REAL, though sacramental, OFFERING of Christ’s BODY AND BLOOD; He is Himself the priest, but also the OBLATION [De civ dei 10:20]. In the second place, however, along with this oblation of the Head, it involves the offering of His members, since the fruit of the sacrifice is, precisely, their union in His mystical body. As Augustine puts it [De civ dei 10:6]…” (Early Christian Doctrines, page 454-5)

Furthermore, Darwell Stone on the western Fathers:

“There is like terminology in the West. A canon of the Council of Arles, held in 314 A.D., like the Council of Nicaea eleven years later in the East, incidentally contains the word ‘OFFER’ to describe the work of the presbyters which the deacons might not perform [Canon 15]. St. Optatus of Milevis uses the words ‘SACRIFICE’ and ‘OFFER’ in regard to the Eucharist [2:12]. St. Ambrose says that it is part of the work of the Christian ministry to ‘OFFER SACRIFICE for the people’; that Christ ‘is Himself on earth when the body of Christ is OFFERED’; and that the word of Christ ‘consecrates the SACRIFICE which is OFFERED’ [In Ps 38 Enar 25]. St. Augustine refers to the Eucharist as ‘the SACRIFICE of our redemption,’ ‘the SACRIFICE of the Mediator,’ ‘the SACRIFICE of peace,’ ‘the SACRIFICE of love,’ ‘the SACRIFICE of the BODY and BLOOD of the Lord,’ ‘the SACRIFICE of the Church’ [Conf 9:32; Enchir 110; In Ps 21 Enar 2:28; In Ps 33 Enar 1:5; De civ Dei 10:20]. St. Leo speaks of ‘the OFFERING of the SACRIFICE’ as an act of Christian worship [Serm 26:1; 91:3].” (History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, volume 1, page 113)

Phil P


St. Augustine also (at times) did not interpret John 6:51ff as referring to the Eucharist (other places seem to indicate he did), but neither did Luther. I remember reading this in Luther’s famous “Babylonian Captivity.” See for example Martin Luther’s Interpretation of John 6. However, both Augustine and Luther held “This is My Body” literally. The classic Augustine passages are:

“How this ‘And he was carried in his own hands’] should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. FOR CHRIST WAS CARRIED IN HIS OWN HANDS, WHEN, REFERRING TO HIS OWN BODY, HE SAID: ‘THIS IS MY BODY.’ FOR HE CARRIED THAT BODY IN HIS HANDS.” (Psalms 33:1:10)

“…I turn to Christ, because it is He whom I seek here; and I discover how the earth is adored without impiety, how without impiety the footstool of His feet is adored. For He received earth from earth; because flesh is from the earth, and He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, AND GAVE US THE SAME FLESH TO BE EATEN UNTO SALVATION. BUT NO ONE EATS THAT FLESH UNLESS FIRST HE ADORES IT; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord’s feet is adored; AND NOT ONLY DO WE NOT SIN BY ADORING, WE DO SIN BY NOT ADORING.” (Psalms 98:9)

Commenting on these JND Kelly says:

"‘You know,’ he said in another sermon [Serm 9:14], ‘what you are eating and what you are drinking, or rather, WHOM you are EATING and WHOM you are DRINKING.’ Commenting on the Psalmist’s bidding that we should adore the footstool of His feet, he pointed out [Enarr in Ps 98:9] that this must be the earth. But since to adore the earth would be blasphemous, he concluded that the word must mysteriously signify the FLESH which Christ took from the earth and which He gave to us to EAT. Thus it was the EUCHARISTIC BODY WHICH DEMANDED ADORATION.

"Again, he explained [Enarr in Ps 33:1:10] the sentence, ‘He was carried in his hands’ (LXX of 1 Sam 21:13), which in the original describes David’s attempt to allay Achish’s suspicions, as referring to the sacrament:


“One could multiply texts like these which show Augustine taking for granted the traditional identification of the elements WITH THE SACRED BODY AND BLOOD. There can be NO DOUBT that he shared the REALISM held by almost ALL his contemporaries and predecessors.” (Early Christian Doctrines, page 446-447)

Kelly goes on to qualify Augustine’s “real presence” somewhat.

Philip Schaff says on Augustine and the “adoration” passage:

“Yet this great church teacher at the same time holds fast the REAL PRESENCE of Christ in the Supper. He says of the martyrs: ‘They have drunk the blood of CHRIST, and have shed their OWN blood for Christ.’ He was also inclined, with the Oriental fathers, to ascribe a SAVING VIRTUE TO THE CONSECRATED ELEMENTS.” (page 500)

“Ambrose speaks once of the flesh of Christ ‘which we today ADORE in the mysteries,’ and Augustine, of an ADORATION [at least “in the wider sense” of bowing the knee in respect] preceding the participation of the flesh of Christ [footnotes #2 and #3 gives the original Latin].” (page 502)

Phil P


Now here’s a trick question, you can ask “Which Church Father is this?”

“…regarding the doctrine [of the Eucharist]…which our Savior left in His Church as a SYMBOL of that UNITY and CHARITY with which He wished all Christians to be mutually bound and united…”

“…He [Jesus] wished that this sacrament should be received as the spiritual food of souls [Matt 26:26f], whereby they may be nourished and strengthened…[and] furthermore to be a pledge of our future glory and everlasting happiness, and thus be a SYMBOL of that one body of which He is the Head [1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23]…”

“The most Holy Eucharist has indeed this in common with the other sacraments, that IT IS A SYMBOL OF A SACRED THING and a visible form of an invisible grace…”

Then dramatic pause, and inform everyone that this is The Council of Trent, Session 13, On the Eucharist, Chapters I, II, III.

Works every time! I’m not sure for what. :smiley:

Phil P


I am always amazed when non-Catholics attempt to use Augustine in their arguments against the real presence. First of all, they home in on only a small portion of what Augustine wrote and they should know better. Moreover, Augustine would not be a canonized Catholic saint unless he believed in the real presence. How this latter point escapes them is simply beyond me.


Isn’t that sort of their whole MO, though? “Call no man father”…“Your faith has saved you”…

In other words, isn’t it appropriate that those who do not sufficiently consider the entire context of Scripture would do the same to the writings of the ECFs?

Side note: I teach at an Episcopal school that has a “chapel” service every morning (would that the Catholic schools did that!). This morning, “The Church” – yes, that’s a quote – “invited us to remember” St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was “an early bishop and martyr of the Church”…

…who happened to uphold the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, if I’m not very much mistaken.

So, it’s a buffet-style theology, and they apply it not just to Scripture, but to the very men who formed the early Church.



At least they are exposing the kids to the ECF’s. Perhaps in time they will read more.


Any text taken out of context is a pretext…teachccd:)


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