Did ALL of the Early Church Fathers Believe in the Eucharist?

Hi there. I recently I discovered a blog post written by a protestant who makes an attempt to refute the Catholic claim that the Early Church Fathers unanimously agreed that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Now, he goes through a few Eucharistic quotes from various Church Fathers, and most of his claims are obviously too much of a reach, but there is one in particular that is slightly troubling to me. He starts off with several quotes by Clement of Alexandria. I will include the link to the blog below, but here is the quote that is nagging at me:

“And if we who preside over the Churches are shepherds after the image of the good Shepherd, and you the sheep, are we not to regard the Lord as preserving consistency in the use of figurative speech, when He speaks also of the milk of the flock?… 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.”

This excerpt is from Clement of Alexandria’s “Book I - Peadagogus Chapter 6” I did a little reading of it myself just to make sure he wasn’t taking anything out of context, and he doesn’t seem to be. Now my only guess for why Clement would say this is that, in all of his quotes about the Eucharist, he never actually says “the bread figuratively represents the flesh” but instead the flesh represents faith. That would be my only defense for this in dialogue with a protestant, but I’m not sure if that is good enough. Nor am I certain if that is good enough for me in my own belief of the Eucharist. I’m not saying my faith in the sacrament is lacking, it’s just that when I am sitting in Mass, trying to comprehend the mystery of this sacrament, I prefer to have 100% confidence in our belief. So if I ever find any objections given by protestants, I want to make sure I know the answer myself.

So, I have a couple of questions.

  1. Do you think Clement of Alexandria believed in the True Presence?
  2. If not, then why is he held in such high respect by the Church?

Sorry for writing an essay. If anyone has read this far, then I appreciate it. I would really love it if you could give me your opinion on this.
Here is the link to the blog I found:

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I cannot even tell what/if this gentleman who wrote this article belongs to any recognized protestant faith.
My friend, have you investigated Clement of Alexandria? And not just what this one person is saying?

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Christ performed “Eucharistic Miracles” over time.

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Yes I have. I’ve looked at various Catholic encyclopedias, I went to my library and checked every book about him, and all were quite vague on what his actual belief of the Eucharist is.

Ok. The Coptic Church still regards him as a saint. As for the author of the protestant passage…His name popped up with having written to Dr. Ray from EWTN. I am not sure if the same person…but his rhetoric sounded the same…

  1. IF and that is a HUGE “IF”; they would be heretics

  2. Suggest they read this site for the FACTS

http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/father/fathers.htm

May God guide our paths; why do Protestants feel such a need to defame Catholics? [I KNOW the answer]

May The Holy Spirit Guide our paths

Patrick

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Where does the Catholic church makes this claim?

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Everywhere Christ spoke in analogy in the Scriptures, he later explained Himself, usually when it was just him and His Apostles. In this passage, Christ speaks in analogy, to only the apostles, and he does not clarify (what prots call) the analogy. Therefore, I would say that one can reasonably say that Christ was speaking literally and not metaphorically.

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St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 216 A.D.)

Calling her children about her, she [the Church] nourishes them with holy milk, that is, with the Infant Word…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 nutriments. 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 1:6:42,1,3)

@PJM excellent link, one of my favorite resources!! I linked several time here on CAF to the realpresence.org

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faith is to believe in “revelation” (the truth revealed in the bible). What St.Clement says is that the Eucharist represent what we are to believe as revealed. That we are to believe in Christ and that the Eucharist is His flesh, Him.

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Absolutely. I certainly do not deny the biblical evidence for the Eucharist. And I am not trying to make an argument against the Catholic teaching of the Eucharist. I am just wondering why Clement of Alexandria refers to the body and blood as symbols, and how I would explain that to a non-Catholic in a debate…

@adgloriam I don’t know if there is a specific passage in the Catechism that says this, but I have a book about apologetics that says this. Also I kind of thought this was a commonly-held belief among Catholics.

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Hi @AGoodCatholicBoy I tend to believe the Church fathers were “one mind and one heart” about the Eucharist.

Yet, even some of the church fathers weren’t 100% right about everything (best example I know of was the “limbo” doctrine of St.Augustin). Some truths and “dogmas” were only set latter (being somewhat unclear at the outset) as history unfolds and Christ accompanies His bride the Church. A good example are the “Marian dogmas” that took centuries to be proclaimed, yet were during centuries believed by many even before Church proclamation.

The thing is: The Church is also on a pilgrimage on this earth, and some truths take time to understand even for the Church. Christ accompanies the church on this pilgrimage and with the passing of the centuries our understanding of some truths increases.

I suppose this falls within “dogmatic theology”. Edit: Intersection between Patristics(Patrology) and History of Dogmatic Theology - a multidisciplinary question.

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Well done. Case closed. Though I think it is important to remember that a lot of dogma did emerge over the first several centuries organically, based on an established consensus in the Church, early Councils, as the Church itself formed. I don’t see the first century Christians having an official defined belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist that we have today. I accept the Real Presence based mainly on early Church writings that it was commonly understood that Christ was truly present in the Eucharist. There are too many references to the flesh as bread, wine as blood, including from Scripture and St. Paul - remember St. Paul is earlier than the four Gospels too.

To me it is a little irrational to start trying to go against this - from any sort of ‘more authentic’ standpoint. It also echoes Gnosticism in a way, which the Church was certainly battling very early on, even the late first century. A rejection of Christ as both man, flesh and blood, and God. What you cannot find is unambiguous evidence that anyone believed in ‘symbols’ of the Eucharist in the early Church. To me this is like fighting the Incarnation; perhaps that was all symbolic too. This is heterodoxy. We should reject Gnosticism with the same spirit they rejected it back then.

Clement of Alexandria believed the Eucharist became the flesh and blood of Christ. There’s only an issue if one becomes fixated on either/or understandings of what he and other church fathers wrote. One also has to understand the more Platonic context he’s coming from when Clement writes of symbolism, and the way Clement uses the term in contrast to the way fundamentalist evangelicals would use the term symbolism and representation in modern context. And there’s more to the theology of the Blessed Sacrament than just the Real Presence. It’s not limited to only that.

What’s the Latin word translated as “symbol”? It can be very different from what you think.

Lol! You ought to read the whole thing. I found it here.

In answer to your questions, yes, he believed in the True Presence.
He is highly respected, probably because of the sublime lessons of which you just posted an example.

It was a bit tedious, at first. I’m a guy, so it got really interesting when he started talking about breast milk and distended breasts. He went on quite a bit about it. I think he must have been a married man.

Anyway, he got to this point. Notice the word, transmuted:

And this blood, transmuted by a natural process of assimilation in the pregnancy of the mother, through the sympathy of parental affection, effloresces and grows old, in order that there may be no fear for the child.

He goes on in that vein for a while, going on about the blood transmuting and changing into milk.

Then he says:

… What an absurdity is it, then, not to acknowledge that the blood is converted into that very bright and white substance by the breath! The change it suffers is in quality, not in essence. You will certainly find nothing else more nourishing, or sweeter, or whiter than milk. In every respect, accordingly, it is like spiritual nourishment, which is sweet through grace, nourishing as life, bright as the day of Christ.

So, as I understand it, he is comparing the transmutation of blood into milk in a woman to another type of transmutation (i.e. transubstantiation). He is calling it absurd to believe that this transmutation does not occur.

Then he says:

… But the Lord Christ, the fruit of the Virgin, did not pronounce the breasts of women blessed, nor selected them to give nourishment; but when the kind and loving Father had rained down the Word, Himself became spiritual nourishment to the good. O mystic marvel! The universal Father is one, and one the universal Word; and the Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere, and one is the only virgin mother…Therefore she had not milk; for the milk was this child fair and comely, the body of Christ, which nourishes by the Word the young brood, which the Lord Himself brought forth in throes of the flesh, which the Lord Himself swathed in His precious blood. O amazing birth! O holy swaddling bands! The Word is all to the child, both father and mother and tutor and nurse. Eat my flesh, He says, and drink my blood. John 6:53-54 Such is the suitable food which the Lord ministers, and He offers His flesh and pours forth His blood, and nothing is wanting for the children’s growth. O amazing mystery! We are enjoined to cast off the old and carnal corruption, as also the old nutriment, receiving in exchange another new regimen, that of Christ, receiving Him if we can, to hide Him within; and that, enshrining the Saviour in our souls, we may correct the affections of our flesh.

Thus, in my opinion, this is a sublime explanation of Transubstantiation.

AGoodCatholicBoy.

There was uniform belief in the early Church concerning the real and substantial presence of Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine.

I’ll try to get to a computer soon and give you more detail (right now I am at my Android device and “more” is not practical until I get to my computer which has my reference material).

God bless.

Cathoholic

It is not unusual to find various orthodox Catholic writers proposing different interpretations of a particular verse in the Bible. That Clement of Alexandria mentions one possible interpretation, namely, a metaphorical interpretation, of Jesus’ words in John 6, “Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood,” is not all that surprising. However, I would be concerned if Clement had said that there was one and only one possible interpretation of Jesus’ words and they can only be understood metaphorically of faith, etc…but he didn’t.

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