Purely Symbolic Eucharist Apologetics from Church Fathers

In our desire, as Catholics, to come together in a True Presence Eucharist (the flesh and blood of Jesus), we are constantly challenged by a “purely symbolic” interpretation of Communion. I have listened to faithfull Christians testify to the good aspects of this interpretation, which I don’t see as apostasy from the True faith. For our Christian brothers and sisters who Commune with a purely symbolic interpretation, can you provide for us some early Church apologetics which clearly convey this belief?


There isn’t any. But then all the Protestants I personally know don’t bother to look. They don’t see any value of any writings except the Bible (the origin of which they’re not curious) and of they’re favorite modern Protestant author. I do think that those who do choose to research the Church Fathers on this or any other topic will quickly become Orthodox or Catholic.

Great answer.

Not one ECF defended a purely symbolic Eucharist. There are some Protestants who claim they taught it and not a literal interpretation. They also say the burden of proof is on Catholics to prove a literal interpretation? Seriously? Burden is on them to clearly show otherwise. Likewise, I once told a Protestant:

If the Catholic belief of the Real Presence were false or heretical,why is it not one ECF ever attacked it?

The Protestant replies:

How could they attack something which did not exist?

Which logically means: The early church always taught a purely symbolic eucharist. But history says otherwise! :thumbsup:

What gets me sometimes about many Protestants is the belief that Christianity somehow was not understood clearly until the Protestant Reformation. So I guess every Christian prior to the 16th century was either lost or completely dumb to truly understand Jesus and his teachings.

I never understood this either. Why would Christ have allowed his Church to be in error for 1500 years? Scripture assures us that the Church is the “pillar and mainstay of the truth” What gives Martin Luther and the other “reformers” more authority than the teachings Apostles and the ECFs?

Maybe in the big scheme of things, God had a plan. Maybe He saw man falling away to secularism in the time of Martin Luther and in order not to loose the whole church, He let there be a reformation so it was still possible for people to learn about Him and love Him though they couldn’t believe in the REAL presence in the Eucharist… (You know, like all those disciples who walked away because that saying was too hard). The Father still loves his people and some day we will all be reunited in one body of Christ, one Catholic church.

Any mention of Martin Luther and Lutherans viewing the Real Presence as symbolic is a complete distortion. Lutherans, along with Roman Catholics and Orthodox firmly profess the literal presence of our Lord in holy Communion.

Martin Luther vehemently rejected the symbolic view of the Eucharist.

True, but he didn’t espouse Transubstantiation either (at least I don’t think, and if he did I apologize). Anything short of this must have a symbolic element.

The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue summarize Transubstantiation as such:

The concept of transubstantiation for its part is intended as a confession and preservation of the mystery character of the Eucharistic presence; it is not intended as an explanation of how this change occur

Please allow those who do take a purely symbolic communion to present their evidence.

Do not put Martin Luther in this Communion. He was obviously not denying True Presence.

Maybe Calvin. But he was far from a church father candidate.


It should be noted that rather a few sorts of protestants DO believe in the literal Real Presence (though many balk at the phrasing of Transubstantiation). IIRC, those on the Anglican and Lutheran side of the protestant tree don’t go the symbolic route. It’s those who come down from the Calvin side of the protestant tree who do the symbolic thing. Same sorts of people likely to have Doritos and Coke “communion.” (I wish I were making that up, but I’ve seen it)

Reference Anglicans, correct.



Luther believed and taught the Real Presence, you have to move forward to Zwingli and Calvin to find a doctrine of ‘only symbolic’ Eucharist.

BTW I’m not a Lutheran but fair is fair.

Tell that to Orthodox believers.

I am Orthodox and in no way do we believe in any ‘symbolic element’ in the Divine Liturgy or Holy Eucharist. In some ways we are like the Lutherans. We just take Our Lord at his word when he said “This is my body”. It is a holy mystery to us.

Some Orthodox theologians use the word ‘transubstantiation’ in regards to the Holy Eucharist, but it has never been raised to the level of dogma.

Obviously, I was incorrect to assume that any view short of Transubstantiation implies a “symbolic interpretation” and I apologize if my post offended anyone - namely Orthodox and Lutherans.

Not to forget we Anglicans.

We are easily offended.

Some of us.


OK to be fair, there are a great many ills that can be laid at the feet of Martin Luther, I am leaving the Lutheran Church to come into the Latin Rite so believe me I know, but this is not one of them. Luther believed, taught and vigorously defended the literal presence in the Eucharist so much so that the other Reformers thought he was not going far enough. Calvin went so far as say to Luther had begun well but had slidden back into paganism and superstition and popery.

So by all means bang on Luther for the things he did wrong, but this one starts with Zwingli and was “canonized” by Calvin.

God bless

And here is the point. The radical reformers were those who sought to competent throw off all vestiges of the Church and even though Calvinist pretend the dividing line in the reformation is between themselves and the Arminians, in truth they both come from the same tree because they both deny the salvific power of Baptism, the literal presence and the Office of the Keys.

In this the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and all the offshoots thereof including “bible churches” and the less mainline charismatic bunch are all really children of Calvin and Zwingli. But Calvinists get really mad when you point this out because they think the big test of orthodoxy is not to obey the commands that Christ gave to the Church saying “Do this…” But instead to have a “cogent” understanding of the five points.

God bless

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