This Saying is Hard, Who Can Accept It? The Eucharist
I don't feel I can adequately express my thoughts about My Lord being truly present in the Eucharist, but I will try. I have found that receiving His Body and Precious Blood has been life-changing for me since returning to Catholicism .
The Eucharist is the unifying theme throughout Scripture and ties together the Old Testament sacrifices, the bread and wine of Melchizedek, the Lamb of the Passover, the pure sacrifice of Malachi all the way to the Perfect Lamb in St. John's Revelations. Catholic and Orthodox Churches have always taken John 6 literally when Christ said to them: "Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you...for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." Then many of his disciples who were listening said 'this is a hard saying; who can accept it?'...
as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him."
The early church believed in Christ's real presence in the Eucharist. They did not believe it was symbolic and the Real Presence has been the source and summit of Catholic faith since then.
Acts 2:42 "They devoted themselves to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.
An early writing of the apostles called the Didache in A.D. 70 stated: "Assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure...Let no one eat and drink of your Eucharist but the baptized"
Paul said in 1 Corinthians; "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord." Why would he warn people and suggest that some were sick and dying because they were receiving His body unworthily if it was only a symbolic remembrance of the Last Supper?
Justin Martyr in 155 A.D. gave a description of the Christian gathering that makes it clear the early believers had no doubt regarding what the Eucharist was.
"For we do not receive these as common bread and common drink; but just as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have learned that the food over which thanks has been given by the prayer of the word which comes from him, [see 1 Cor 11: 23-26; Lk 22; 19] and by which are blood and flesh are nourished through a change, is the Flesh and Blood of the same incarnate Jesus."
Irenaeus a disciple of Bishop Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, wrote in 180 A.D. providing an explanation of the change that takes place in the bread and wine when they become the Eucharist. The earthly creation (bread and wine) are raised to a heavenly dignity after they "receive the word of God" [at the epiclesis of the Mass or the invocation to the Holy Spirit] and become the food and drink of Christians. So how then can we doubt that, "Our bodies, receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible but have the hope of resurrection to eternal life."
I find it hard to imagine that Irenaeus could have gotten this wrong especially since he was taught by one (Polycarp) who had been a disciple of the one (John) who had laid his head on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper.
"If Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, as the Christians say, then I would get on my hands and knees to worship". M. Gandhi
"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament (the Eucharist). There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that." J.R.R. Tolkein (Catholic convert and writer)
"When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now." Mother Teresa of Calcutta