St. Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Smyrnaeans on the Mass. (The year is 110 A.D.)
He became the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who was the immediate successor of St. Peter. He received the martyr’s crown as he was thrown to wild beasts in the arena. He wrote:
“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not profess that the Eucharist (Jn 6:66) 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.”
It is the Mass that has brought Christ into the present. It is the sign given as you contemplate all of chapter 6 in John's gospel.
In Scripture and the words of the early Church Fathers
(See Luke 24:30-31, 33, 35 )
When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. Then they told what had happened on the road, and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
No matter what Christian sect one might attend there is no mistaking the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist at Mass in scripture and in the Early Church Fathers own words. It is the Christian Mass from the time of the Last Supper that has brought Christianity into the here and now. It is the sign given as you contemplate Johns Gospel Chapter 6. The Mass takes place every 2 minutes somewhere on the earth, 7 days a week, all year long except for Good Friday. The connection that is made between the Cross then and the Cross now is breathtaking when one connects the dots softly hidden amongst the 7 Sacraments. Did not Jesus take on the sins of the world, past present and future, once for all, for what we have done and for what we have failed to do? Do we not proclaim His death until He comes again? Jesus showed us what he could do with a little bread and a few fish by feeding the multitudes (Jn 6:23-27). Jesus was constantly showing us His power over nature herself to prepare our hearts and our minds for the food that was to nourish each of us on our journey. "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." (1Cor 10:16-17)
When He spoke of this food from heaven to be given many of His disciples left because what he was saying was to hard for them to believe (John 6:66). But the Apostles stayed and were rewarded with the last supper, along with His Spirit at Pentecost (Jn 20:19, 22-23)., Him to be with them, in them. On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, Jesus showed himself to his apostles. It's easy to put up resistance to the Most Holy Eucharist when one is looking from the outside in, but one can not argue that it is at the very center of the "why and reason" Christianity has survived the attacks from the outside as well as the inside for 2000 years.
"We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks. The Eucharist involves more than just receiving; it also involves satisfying the hunger of Christ. He says "come to me". He is hungry for souls. Nowhere does the Gospel say: "Go Away" but always "Come to Me"….The Eucharist is connected with the passion. If Jesus had not established the Eucharist we would have forgotten the crucifixion….To make sure that we do not forget, Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a memorial of His love."
"A golden thread of gospel grace runs through the whole web of the Old Testament. Christ is the opener of Scripture; and even after his resurrection, he led people to know the mystery concerning himself, not by advancing new notions, but by showing how the Scripture was fulfilled in Him, and turning them to the earnest study of it. Those that have experienced the pleasure and profit of communion with him, cannot but desire more of his company. He took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave to them. This he did with his usual authority and affection, with the same manner, perhaps with the same words. Here he teaches us to crave every meal, our daily bread - (John chapter 6; John chapters 14-17) See how Christ by his Spirit and grace makes himself known to the souls of his people through the breaking of the bread. He opens the Scriptures to them. He meets them at his table, in the ordinance of the Lord's supper. But the work is completed by the opening of the eyes of their mind; yet it is but short views we have of Christ in this world, but when we enter heaven, we shall see him for ever." ...Thomas Kempis
The Didache or "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" is a manuscript which was used by 2nd century bishops and priests for the instruction of catechumens. Many early Christian writers have referenced it making this document relatively easy to date.
"Let no one eat and drink of your Eucharist but those baptized in the name of the Lord; to this, too the saying of the Lord is applicable: 'Do not give to dogs what is sacred'".
"On the Lord's own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure. However, no one quarreling with his brother may join your meeting until they are reconciled; your sacrifice must not be defiled. For here we have the saying of the Lord: 'In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a mighty King, says the Lord; and my name spreads terror among the nations.'"
ST. CLEMENT OF ROME
St. Clement was the third successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome; otherwise known as the third Pope.
"Since then these things are manifest to us, and we have looked into the depths of the divine knowledge, we ought to do in order all things which the Master commanded us to perform at appointed times. He commanded us to celebrate sacrifices and services, and that it should not be thoughtlessly or disorderly, but at fixed times and hours. He has Himself fixed by His supreme will the places and persons whom He desires for these celebrations, in order that all things may be done piously according to His good pleasure, and be acceptable to His will. So then those who offer their oblations at the appointed seasons are acceptable and blessed, but they follow the laws of the Master and do not sin. For to the high priest his proper ministrations are allotted, and to the priests the proper place has been appointed, and on Levites their proper services have been imposed. The layman is bound by the ordinances for the laity."
Source: St. Clement, bishop of Rome, 80 A.D., to the Corinthians
"Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices."
Source: Letter to the Corinthians, [44,4]
ST. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH
St. Ignatius became the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who was the immediate successor of St. Peter. He heard St. John preach when he was a boy and knew St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. Seven of his letters written to various Christian communities have been preserved. Eventually, he received the martyr's crown as he was thrown to wild beasts in the arena.
"Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because 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."
"Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.
"Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ."
-"Letter to the Ephesians", paragraph 20, c. 80-110 A.D.
"I have no taste for the food that perishes nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the Bread of God which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood which is love that cannot be destroyed."
-"Letter to the Romans", paragraph 7, circa 80-110 A.D.
"Take care, then who belong to God and to Jesus Christ - they are with the bishop. And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church - they too shall be of God, and will be living according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any man walk about with strange doctrine, he cannot lie down with the passion. Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons."
-Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3:2-4:1, 110 A.D.
ST. JUSTIN MARTYR
St. Justin Martyr was born a pagan but converted to Christianity after studying philosophy. He was a prolific writer and many Church scholars consider him the greatest apologist or defender of the faith from the 2nd century. He was beheaded with six of his companions some time between 163 and 167 A.D.
"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."
" First Apology", Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155.
"God has therefore announced in advance that all the sacrifices offered in His name, which Jesus Christ offered, that is, in the Eucharist of the Bread and of the Chalice, which are offered by us Christians in every part of the world, are pleasing to Him."
"Dialogue with Trypho", Ch. 117, circa 130-160 A.D.
Moreover, as I said before, concerning the sacrifices which you at that time offered, God speaks through Malachias, one of the twelve, as follows: 'I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices from your hands; for from the rising of the sun until its setting, my name has been glorified among the gentiles; and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a clean offering: for great is my name among the gentiles, says the Lord; but you profane it.' It is of the sacrifices offered to Him in every place by us, the gentiles, that is, of the Bread of the Eucharist and likewise of the cup of the Eucharist, that He speaks at that time; and He says that we glorify His name, while you profane it."
-"Dialogue with Trypho", [41: 8-10]
ST. IRENAEUS OF LYONS
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.
ST. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA St. Clement of Alexandria studied under Pantaenus. He later succeeded him as the director of the school of catechumens in Alexandria, Egypt around the year 200 A.D., "The Blood of the Lord, indeed, is twofold. There is His corporeal Blood, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and His spiritual Blood, that with which we are anointed. That is to say, to drink the Blood of Jesus is to share in His immortality. The strength of the Word is the Spirit just as the blood is the strength of the body. Similarly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. The one, the Watered Wine, nourishes in faith, while the other, the Spirit, leads us on to immortality. The union of both, however, - of the drink and of the Word, - is called the Eucharist, a praiseworthy and excellent gift. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and in soul. By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and to the Word.", -"The Instructor of the Children". [2,2,19,4] ante 202 A.D., "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 nutrients. He delivers over His Flesh, and pours out His Blood; and nothing is lacking for the growth of His children. O incredible mystery!", -"The Instructor of the Children" [1,6,41,3] ante 202 A.D.. ,