The effect of the Eucharist on the human body of the recipient


#1

Christ be with you all,

So I’ve been diving into the study of the most holy sacrament of the altar, and I have been stuck on trying interpret what some of the earliest Church Fathers meant when they spoke about the Eucharist. There is no question that they believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, that being, body, soul, blood, and divinity. However, one disconnect I notice from the way that we modern Catholic believe about the Eucharist is that the Church Fathers understood there to be a physical effect of the Eucharist upon the physical human body. I will put some quotes below which demonstrate this fact.

*“This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”

** St. Justin Martyr “First Apology”, Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155**.*

and

St. Irenaeus succeeded St. Pothinus to become the second bishop of Lyons in 177 A.D. Earlier in his life he studied under St. Polycarp. Considered, one of the greatest theologians of the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus is best known for refuting the Gnostic heresies.

[Christ] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own Body, from which he gives increase to our bodies."

Source: St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 180 A.D.:

“So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ,** which fortify and build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ’s Blood and Body and is His member?** As the blessed apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians, ‘For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is not talking about some kind of ‘spiritual’ and ‘invisible’ man, ‘for a spirit does not have flesh an bones’ (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and ‘the grain of wheat falls into the earth’ (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.”

-"Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely

Named Gnosis". Book 5:2, 2-3, circa 180 A.D. “For just as the bread which comes from the earth, having received the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so our bodies, having received the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, because they have the hope of the resurrection.”

-“Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely named Gnosis”. Book 4:18 4-5, circa 180 A.D.
*

I could provide more quotes, but in particular, St, Gregory of Nyssa speaks of the flesh of Jesus Christ has having within itself the power to give resurrection life, and that our bodies receive the power of resurrection only by coming into a “blend” or “mix” with this living flesh of Christ. He even extends His argument to include that the digestion of the bread and wine into our bloodstream and cell-life is what makes our bodies suck on the immortality which inheres within the flesh of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Today, we are more accustomed to hearing about the soul’s benefit of the Eucharist, namely, that through the Eucharist our souls are infused with the grace and virtues of the Holy Spirit, principally divine charity, which conforms us more and more to the standard of the divine community of the Trinity. However, these Fathers above make it clear that we are missing some other element to the Eucharist’s effect upon the human physical body.

Any thoughts?


#2

I don’t know what the particular physical effects of the Eucharist are, but I have read numerous stories of saints who lived off of nothing but the Eucharist. Some actually could not eat anything else and would become ill if they tried. When I read your post, I thought about that. I wish they’d tell us these things in CCD.


#3

dreamer4,

Thanks for your comment, but I do not see these Fathers speaking about the issue of eating the Eucharist in replacement of food. Perhaps, there are other writings that speak about it.


#4

Even in some of the liturgical prayers, there is acknowledgement that the accidents which remain, i.e. bread and wine, are metabolized by our bodies as would common bread and wine. For example:

PRAYER OVER THE OFFERINGS
O God, who in the offerings presented here
provide for the twofold needs of human nature,
nourishing us with food

and renewing us with your Sacrament,
grant, we pray,
that the sustenance they provide
may not fail us in body or in spirit.
Through Christ our Lord.
See liturgies.net.


#5

Whenever I am at Mass, I feel really hungry (in an unusual way) during the Eucharistic Prayer, which is only satisfied by the Eucharist! I find that really awesome! Anyone else ever experience that?


#6

My parish priest told us that when he was a teen, whenever he received Holy Communion, he would have a strange feeling that started in the center of his abdomen and then would travel out to his limbs all the way to his fingers and toes. He would ask others around him if they experienced this, only to find that no one else did. I guess he was being called to the priesthood at that time.


#7

Not exactly. When I first received in the Catholic Church, I felt no hunger prior to receiving, just nervousness, as the RC Bishop granted me permission to receive without me asking. After I received, I felt no hunger, no pain, nothing. I felt whole, complete, and not hungry. I don’t remember, but I don’t think I ate anything well into the following day, roughly 20 hours later, and I still wasn’t hungry. I’ve often wondered if I could really “live” off of the Eucharist, for a few days, and just drink water, and have nothing else.


#8

I can say that of all the times that I shared my faith and Love for Jesus Christ, the time it was most amazing and effective was when I could still feel the Eucharist in my throat shortly after Mass. I don’t think it was coincidence. I could quote Scripture I didn’t really remember reading or studying, but knew it as fact. The Holy Spirit was truly guiding me, and it may or may not have had to do with Communion. It was also the first time I ever was able to let the Eucharist dissolve as opposed to chewing it. (I didn’t do it for any specific reason other than I felt like letting it dissolve that day.)


#9

Friends,

I think I may have mis-communicated the question. I do not refer to a physical effect upon our bodies, such as regular food and drink. Rather, as St. Ireneaus argues, the Eucharist has a direct effect upon the physical resurrection of the body because it nourishes that same body. Our blood receives a miraculous effect from the blood of Christ, and so makes it worthy of eternal life. This seems to be what St. Ireneaus is saying in the quotes I provided.

What I am trying to ask here, is what are the effects of the Eucharist on the physical body that are strictly related to our future salvation, not temporal hunger.

What I see today, especially, is many lingering upon the effects of the Eucharist on the “soul”. Our souls are nourishes, our spirits are strengthened in the divine life, etc,etc…but like the Church Fathers have said, there is a salvific nourishment of body (i.e, our flesh and blood) with the body and blood of Christ.

What do they mean?


#10

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.