How would you excellent apologists deal with this:
A survey of the early Church Fathers indicates that the earliest documents and Fathers such as the Didache (late first century) and Justin Martyr (died c. 165) don’t assert the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament. Ignatius (died about 107) comes closer when he protested of his Gnostic opponents that “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.” However, by the time of Irenaeus (died c. 200 AD), you find statements that the bread and wine are strictly Christ’s body and blood, in an argument against the Docetists about the reality of Christ’s earthly body. Tertullian (died c. 220 AD) and Cyprian (died 258 AD) sometimes used terms that indicate a symbolic understanding of the body and blood. Kelly concludes, however, that “while accepting the equation of the elements with the body and blood, [Tertullian] remains conscious of the sacramental distinction between them.”
Though the trend was to see the communion elements as the actual body and blood of Christ, there is another strain as well that used symbolic vocabulary to refer to the elements of the Lord’s Supper. Serapion (died 211 AD) refers to the elements as “a likeness.” Eusebius of Caesarea (died c. 339 AD) on the one hand declares, “We are continually fed with the Savior’s body, we continually participate in the lamb’s blood,” but on the other states that Christians daily commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice “with the symbols of his body and saving blood,” and that he instructed his disciples to make “the image of his own body,” and to employ bread as its symbol. The Apostolical Constitutions (compiled c. 380 AD) use words such as “antitypes” and “symbols” to describe the elements, though they speak of communion as the body of Christ and the blood of Christ.
Other Fathers who mix Real Presence vocabulary with symbolic terms include Cyril of Jerusalem (died 444), Gregory of Nazianzus (died 389), and Macarius of Egypt (died c. 390 AD). Athanasius clearly distinguishes the visible bread and wine from the spiritual nourishment they convey. The symbolic language did not point to absent realities, but were accepted as signs of realities which were present but apprehended by faith.
While St. Augustine (died 430) can be quoted to support various views of the Lord’s Supper, he apparently accepted the widespread realism theory of his time, though in some passages he clearly describes the Lord’s Supper as a spiritual eating and drinking.