Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Peter, Linus, Clement.........John Paul 2, Benedict 16

The primacy and papal succession of Peter is often discounted because it can't be "proven" by the New Testament. Others still argue that Peter never went to Rome because his travels there aren't specifically mentioned in Scripture. A Christian in the 2nd century named Irenaeus was a disciple of a bishop named Polycarp who was himself a disciple of John. This gentleman wrote a book called "Against Heresies." In his book, he gives us an early picture of apostolic succession:

Since, however, it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles…

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Today the Church celebrates and remembers the courageous lives of two of its most beloved apostles, Peter and Paul. Without their courage and selfless devotion to the faith, we wouldn' t be believing in Christ today! They both gave up their lives as the first martyrs for the faith, Paul being sawn in half and Peter being crucified upside down (per his request) in Rome by order of the emperor Nero. The chains that were binding Peter can still be seen in Rome and there is archaeological and historical evidence to support his ministry and subsequent martyrdom in Rome.
Peter is the first among the apostles and his name appears more times in the New Testament than any other apostle. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles in the Bible.
Was Peter always full of faith and courage? No, clearly he had made terrible mistakes and even denied the Lord, but this very same apostle was given the responsibility of being the cornerstone for the Church. Clearly, a fallible man with God-given authority. "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19).
Note here that Jesus changed his name from Simon(hearkening, obedient) to Peter, Cephas (rock) in this address. Whenever God changed someone's name in the Old Testament, it was to signify an important designation of mission and purpose . Abram to Abraham (father of all the Israelites) , Sarai to Sarah, etc. Simon was to be the rock upon which Christ would build the church. Not his confession of Christ the son of God, which was earlier in the passage.
Peter then passed this authority to the next "father of the church" and so on. The succession of these fathers (papas of the church) can be traced from Peter all the way to our current Papa, Benedict the Sixteenth. As Catholics, we trace the current authority to bind and loose, etc to Peter when Jesus first gave him the keys of the kingdom.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

St. Thomas More

Today the Church celebrates the life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More, a former friend and confidant of King Henry VIII . When he would not condone Henry's divorce and remarriage and acknowledge the King of England as the head of the Church, he spent several months imprisoned and finally was beheaded in 1535. He was truly a "man for all seasons" and was respected throughout England for his integrity and moral uprightness, despite being involved in politics! He as well as many other Catholics were martyred for their faith in 16th Century England and there were a fair amount of hangings, torture and imprisonments carried out by the Church of England against Catholics. Interestingly, before he broke away from the Catholic Church to become the head of his own, King Henry had been honored by the Pope Leo as a "Defender of the Faith" for his treatise against Martin Luther and the Reformation. (There are some who believe that St. Thomas More was the real author of this treatise). I recommend the video " A Man for all Seasons" if you haven't seen it yet. It can be had at most video stores and is an inspiring story of a man who honored his faith and his God above all else costing him his life.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Need for One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

As Catholics, we often speak about the theological and historical reasons supporting our belief that Christ founded a Church (not churches) and why His authority to bind, loose, etc was passed on to His human successors, with Peter being the first apostle to act vicariously for Christ. Jesus spoke of unity and prayed specifically just before he suffered and died that "they would be as one." The recent headlines about the Anglican and Presbyterian Churches starting to divide over moral issues is very illustrative of the need for a binding authority as Jesus intended . There is no clear authority in these churches to decide on issues of faith and morals and they are both on the verge of splitting (again). This pattern continues to repeat itself since the 16th century when men decided that they could use their own interpretation of Scripture to become their own authority to arbitrate issues of faith and morals.

Donald Baird, an anglican pastor from Sacramento, California,... is worried about Tuesday's vote undermining church unity:

"We used to act as one church," he said. "Now we'll have 11,000 churches ... chaos," he said.

"The ripple effects have been strong enough, I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't some division," David Gortner, director of the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in California, told AFP.

"We cannot survive as a communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ,"

"When people break that common bond, and that's what has happened, there is no easy way for Churches to know how to respond to that."

"The Anglican Church is not like the Roman Catholic Church where it has a body that makes binding decisions," he said.

"It's times like this that make me wish I was Catholic. Of course, there are plenty of conservative protestant denominations... but the mainline churches used to be conservative, too. What I wouldn't give sometimes for the rock of the Catholic magisterium." Gabe from an Episcopal Blog

I would not be suprised if we won't see more and more people "crossing the Tiber" in the coming months as the need for Matthew 16:19 authority becomes ever more apparent to them.
Let's pray for these communities of Christians as they go through these difficult times.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Another Thought About the Eucharist

Regarding the Catholic and Orthodox belief in the Real Presence many voice this question; "How can Jesus be in that piece of bread? How can that wine really become the actual blood of Christ? It looks like bread and it looks like wine?" Allow me to venture a few questions first before I attempt an answer.
How can Jesus live and reign in me? How can Christ truly take up residence in my heart? How can the God of the universe come down and grow inside the womb of a virgin? How can that carpenter be the Son of God? He looks just like the rest of us! How then can that God-man bear the sins of the whole world past present and future as he hangs on the cross? He looks like a common criminal just like the two hanging beside him. How then can He rise from the dead after three days? How can this same God two thousand years later come into my life and change me for the better? As Christians of any denomination we use our faith for the answers to these questions and seem to have little problem with believing these things. I ask then.... why we cannot believe that the God of the Universe is able to convert bread and wine into His body and blood?

St Thomas Aquinas wrote this hymn to honor the Body and Blood of Our Lord in the Eucharist
in the 13th century:

Devoutly I Adore Thee

O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee,Who truly art within the forms before me;
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee,As failing quite in contemplating Thee.

Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived;The ear alone most safely is believed:
I believe all the Son of God has spoken,Than Truth's own word there is no truer token.

God only on the Cross lay hid from view;But here lies hid at once the Manhood too;
And I, in both professing my belief,Make the same prayer as the repentant thief.

Thy wounds, as Thomas saw, I do not see;Yet Thee confess my Lord and God to be:
Make me believe Thee ever more and more;In Thee my hope, in Thee my love to store.

O thou Memorial of our Lord's own dying!O Bread that living art and vivifying!
Make ever Thou my soul on Thee to live;Ever a taste of Heavenly sweetness give.

O loving Pelican! O Jesu, Lord!Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,Is ransom for a world's entire guilt.

Jesu! Whom for the present veil'd I see,What I so thirst for, O vouchsafe to me:
That I may see Thy countenance unfolding,And may be blest Thy glory in beholding. Amen.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another Revert!

I found a blog today describing a former Catholic couple's return to the Catholic Church after a 30 year foray into evangelical/pentecostal churches. When I read their story, I was overwhelmed at how similar it was to my conversion/reversion story. Here is the beauty of this: I find a Catholic and his wife from Nebraska, a world away from eastern PA where I live, and we have identical views of salvation, baptism, judgement, end-times, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc, despite different parishes, pastors and past life experiences! Because we have both found the fullness of truth by coming home to the Catholic Church! It is truly one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Check out their blog:

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Today is the Feast Of Corpus Christi

Today the Church commemorates the institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper. Since the Eucharist is the "source and summit" of our Catholic faith, it is a day of great importance for Catholics. In Europe, the feast is celebrated with solemn processions bearing our Lord in beautiful ornate monstrances through the streets of ancient cities. Here in America, more parishes are starting to have Eucharistic processions. It's a great way of sharing the Catholic faith with non- Catholics and thanking Jesus for honoring his promise to be with us always in the Eucharist. "He who eats my body and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him." (John 6:56)
"after this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him" (John 6:66)

My prayer today is, just as He did for the two men on the way to Emmaus, that our "eyes will be opened" and we will recognize Jesus in the "breaking of the bread." Luke 24:30

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord" - Eucharistic Adoration

In Fr. Benedict Groeschel's little book Praying in the Presence of Our Lord, he relates a story about Saint Teresa of Avila. When she heard people say they wished they had lived when Christ walked on this earth, she would smile to herself, for she knew that we have Him as truly with us in the Most Holy Sacrament as people had Him then, and wonder what more they could possibly want.

Catholics have always believed that Christ is truly present, soul, body and divinity in the Eucharist. The Church believes Christ fulfills His promise to” be with us always” through His presence in the Eucharist. Therefore it is not an unreasonable leap in logic to adore Him in the Eucharist. This devotion called Eucharistic Adoration developed in the early church sometime after the fifth century. St. Augustine said that not to adore Christ in the Eucharist with some external sign of reverence was a sin!

Some folks will say, “where is Eucharistic Adoration” in the Bible? Well, it isn’t, however the theology for it is. Christ said, “This is my body” as he held out the bread to His disciples at the Last Supper. It is important to note that He didn’t say “this represents my body.” At this point, the twelve disciples around the table may have been calling to mind his sermon a year earlier when He told them they must eat His body and drink His blood. (Jn 6)

When the Eucharist is confected by the priest, Christ’s sacrifice is again made present on the altar. He is not re-crucified. (For more on this, go to this link by Baptist-turned Catholic Steve Ray
He is literally made present as the Greek word anamnesis denotes. Believing he is present in the Eucharist allows us to worship Him . We are not worshipping a piece of bread . If I worshipped a piece of bread it would be idol worship! However in Eucharistic adoration, the consecrated Host is reverently placed in an ornate container called a Monstrance. This is then placed in a suitable place for the faithful to pray, worship and be close to their Lord. Many churches have a procession where the monstrance containing our Lord is publically and reverently displayed for all to worship.

What does this all mean for us as Christians who desire to be as close to Jesus as possible? It means that I can go to any Catholic Church and worship Him, pray to Him, listen to Him. He resides in the tabernacle (small elegant locked chamber) of every church so we can kneel before the tabernacle and tell Jesus what is on our hearts. Many churches have a chapel of perpetual adoration where the Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance and 24/7 worship can occur outside of the Mass. Wow! Is this a strange and obscure custom of the Catholic Church? No actually, most saints through the ages have persevered in prayer before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and have received much grace, consolation and joy through this practice. Yesterday, I was visiting the National Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Maryland. As I walked into the chapel, I was greeted by a priest who gently whispered to me, ” enjoy your visit with us today, the Lord is present in the tabernacle” as he motioned to the front of the beautiful chapel. It is such a joy for me to have Jesus so present to me not only in His Word, His people, but in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist! In my old non-denominational church, folks would sometimes kneel on the floor as beautiful songs of worship were sung. My heart’s desire is for all Christians to experience Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist so together we can “Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker.” (Maranatha Music1980) You don't have to be Catholic to be blessed by Eucharistic Adoration. Try it you might like it!

If you would like to learn more about Eucharistic Adoration please visit this site:

Friday, June 16, 2006

Why Non- Catholics Can't Receive the Eucharist

An oft-repeated criticism of Catholicism is directed towards the practice of a "closed communion." Non-Catholic Christians sometimes take great offense to this and believe Catholics are being divisive. The reality is Catholics very much grieve the loss of communion with our separated brethren and long for the day when we all can gather together to partake of One Bread as One Body in Christ. Taking part in the Eucharist is one of the highest signs of Christian unity. But by the very definition of unity , all must be in agreement and be one in heart and mind. The fact that most Protestants do not believe that Christ is truly present soul, body and divinity is why they cannot partake of the Eucharist. When we say the "great Amen" at the end of the Eucharistic prayer of the Mass, we acknowledge our belief in His presence on the altar. It would be wrong to then go up to receive the Eucharist if we believed it is just a symbol. By receiving the Eucharist but not believing it is the Body and Blood of Christ is precisely what Paul rebuked the Corinthians for; not correctly discerning the body of Christ. This admonition doesn't just pertain to non-Catholics but also includes those baptized Catholics who receive the Eucharist but do not believe He is truly present.
By the Church refusing the Eucharist to those who are not one with us (in unity of belief) they are not being snobbish or exclusive. Instead, they are being compassionate and protecting people from the harm engendered by not discerning the Lord's body correctly. "For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died" (1 Cor. 11:29–30)
There are many other ways we can show unity as Christians but until we all are one mind and one spirit as the early church was, non-Catholics must not take of the Eucharist.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

More on the Eucharist

This upcoming Sunday is the Feast of Corpus Christi, when the Catholic Church celebrates Christ's institution of the Eucharist. In my last blog, I gave a few historical references for early church belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The evidence is so overwhelming I thought I would list more references. Seeing the large body of writings from the early church convinced me that I could no longer believe that Communion was meant to be symbolic as I had always believed. Quite frankly, I am embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard that there was any writings about the early church other than from the Bible! When I read the early Church Fathers writings for the first time, it was clear that they were thoroughly Catholic in belief and practice. In particular, their writings about the Eucharist are very difficult to avoid, deny or deconstruct. I hope these writings can help others to re-consider their current view of what the Lord's Supper is in light of the history of the church. They certainly did mine!

Fathers of the Church on the Eucharist
by Fr. Burns K. Seeley, S.S.J.C., Ph.D.

The Didache(c. 90 A.D.)

But concerning the Eucharist, after this fashion give ye thanks.
First, concerning the cup. We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine, David thy Son, which thou hast made known unto us through Jesus Christ thy Son; to thee be the glory for ever.
And concerning the broken bread. We thank thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou hast made known unto us through Jesus thy Son; to thee be the glory for ever.
As this broken bread was once scattered on the mountains, and after it had been brought together became one, so may thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth unto thy kingdom; for thine is the glory, and the power, through Jesus Christ, for ever.
And let none eat or drink of your Eucharist but such as have been baptized into the name of the Lord, for of a truth the Lord hath said concerning this, Give not that which is holy unto dogs. ( 9:1-5)
On the Lord's Day of the Lord gather together, break bread and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions SO THAT YOUR SACRIFICE MAY BE PURE. Let no one who has a quarrel with his neighbor join you until he is reconciled by the Lord: "In every place and time let there be OFFERED TO ME A CLEAN SACRIFICE. For I am Great King," says the Lord, "and My name is wonderful among the Gentiles." (14:1-2)

St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 A.D.)

I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, WHICH IS THE FLESH OF JESUS CHRIST, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I DESIRE HIS BLOOD, which is love incorruptible. (Letter to the Romans 7:3)
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… (Letter to the Philadelphians 4:1)
They [i.e. the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that THE EUCHARIST IS THE FLESH OF OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. (Letter to Smyrnians 7:1)

St. Justin the Martyr (c. 100 - 165 A.D.)

We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [Baptism], and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined.
For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, AND BY THE CHANGE OF WHICH our blood and flesh is nourished, IS BOTH THE FLESH AND THE BLOOD OF THAT INCARNATED JESUS. (First Apology, 66)Moreover, as I said before, concerning the sacrifices which you at that time offered, God speaks through Malachi [1:10-12]…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)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 140 - 202 A.D.)

…He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, "THIS IS MY BODY." The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, HE CONFESSED TO BE HIS BLOOD.
He taught THE NEW SACRIFICE OF THE NEW COVENANT, of which Malachi, one of the twelve prophets, had signified beforehand: [quotes Mal 1:10-11]. By these words He makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; BUT THAT IN EVERY PLACE SACRIFICE WILL BE OFFERED TO HIM, and indeed, a pure one; for His name is glorified among the Gentiles. (Against Heresies 4:17:5)
But what consistency is there in those who hold that the bread over which thanks have been given IS THE BODY OF THEIR LORD, and the cup HIS BLOOD, if they do not acknowledge that He is the Son of the Creator… How can they say that the flesh which has been nourished BY THE BODY OF THE LORD AND BY HIS BLOOD gives way to corruption and does not partake of life? …For as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation of God, IS NO LONGER COMMON BREAD BUT THE EUCHARIST, consisting of two elements, earthly and heavenly… (Against Heresies 4:18:4-5)
If the BODY be not saved, then, in fact, neither did the Lord redeem us with His BLOOD; and neither is the cup of the EUCHARIST THE PARTAKING OF HIS BLOOD nor is the bread which we break THE PARTAKING OF HIS BODY…He 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.
When, therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and BECOMES THE EUCHARIST, THE BODY OF CHRIST, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, WHICH IS ETERNAL LIFE -- flesh which is nourished BY THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD…receiving the Word of God, BECOMES THE EUCHARIST, WHICH IS THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST… (Against Heresies 5:2:2-3)

Tertullian (c. 155 - 250 A.D.)

Likewise, in regard to days of fast, many do not think they should be present at the SACRIFICIAL prayers, because their fast would be broken if they were to receive THE BODY OF THE LORD…THE BODY OF THE LORD HAVING BEEN RECEIVED AND RESERVED, each point is secured: both the participation IN THE SACRIFICE… (Prayer 19:1)
The flesh feeds on THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, so that the SOUL TOO may fatten on God. (Resurrection of the Dead 8:3)
The Sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord commanded to be taken at meal times and by all, we take even before daybreak in congregations… WE OFFER SACRIFICES FOR THE DEAD on their birthday anniversaries…. We take anxious care lest something of our Cup or Bread should fall upon the ground… (The Crown 3:3-4)
A woman, after the death of her husband, is bound not less firmly but even more so, not to marry another husband…Indeed, she prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, SHE OFFERS THE SACRIFICE. (Monogamy 10:1,4)
Origen (c. 185 - 254 A.D.)
We give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread BECOMES BY PRAYER A SACRED BODY, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it.(Against Celsus 8:33)
You see how the ALTARS are no longer sprinkled with the blood of oxen, but consecrated BY THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST. (Homilies on Joshua 2:1)
But if that text (Lev 24:5-9) is taken to refer to the greatness of what is mystically symbolized, then there is a 'commemoration' which has an EFFECT OF GREAT PROPITIATORY VALUE. If you apply it to that 'Bread which came down from heaven and gives life to the world,' that shewbread which 'God has offered to us as a means of reconciliation, in virtue of faith, ransoming us with his blood,' and if you look to that commemoration of which the Lord says, 'Do this in commemoration of me,' then you will find that this is the unique commemoration WHICH MAKES GOD PROPITIOUS TO MEN. (Homilies on Leviticus 9)
You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received THE BODY OF THE LORD, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish….how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting HIS BODY? (Homilies on Exodus 13:3)
…now, however, in full view, there is the true food, THE FLESH OF THE WORD OF GOD, as He Himself says: "MY FLESH IS TRULY FOOD, AND MY BLOOD IS TRULY DRINK." (Homilies on Numbers 7:2)

St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 216 A.D.)

Calling her children about her, she [the Church] nourishes them with holy milk, that is, with the Infant Word…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 nutriments. HE DELIVERS OVER HIS FLESH, AND POURS OUT HIS BLOOD; and nothing is lacking for the growth of His children. O incredible mystery! (Instructor of Children 1:6:42,1,3)

St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200 - 258 A.D.)

And we ask that this Bread be given us daily, so that we who are in Christ and daily receive THE EUCHARIST AS THE FOOD OF SALVATION, may not, by falling into some more grievous sin and then in abstaining from communicating, be withheld from the heavenly Bread, and be separated from Christ's Body…
He Himself warns us, saying, "UNLESS YOU EAT THE FLESH OF THE SON OF MAN AND DRINK HIS BLOOD, YOU SHALL NOT HAVE LIFE IN YOU." Therefore do we ask that our Bread, WHICH IS CHRIST, be given to us daily, so that we who abide and live in Christ may not withdraw from His sanctification and from His Body. (The Lord's Prayer 18)
Also in the priest Melchisedech we see THE SACRAMENT OF THE SACRIFICE OF THE LORD prefigured…The order certainly is that which comes from his [Mel's] sacrifice and which comes down from it: because Mel was a priest of the Most High God; because he offered bread; and because he blessed Abraham. And who is more a priest of the Most High God than our Lord Jesus Christ, who, WHEN HE OFFERED SACRIFICE TO GOD THE FATHER, OFFERED THE VERY SAME WHICH MELCHISEDECH HAD OFFERED, NAMELY BREAD AND WINE, WHICH IS IN FACT HIS BODY AND BLOOD! (Letters 63:4)
If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is Himself the High Priest of God the Father; AND IF HE OFFERED HIMSELF AS A SACRIFICE TO THE FATHER; AND IF HE COMMANDED THAT THIS BE DONE IN COMMEMORATION OF HIMSELF -- then certainly the priest, who imitates that which Christ did, TRULY FUNCTIONS IN PLACE OF CHRIST. (Letters 63:14)

Council of Nicaea (c. 325 A.D.)

It has come to the attention of the holy and great council that in some localities and cities deacons give the Eucharist to presbyters, although neither the canon nor the custom permits those who do NOT offer sacrifice to give the Body of Christ to those who do offer the sacrifice… (Canon 18)

Aphraates the Persian Sage (c. 280 - 345 A.D.)

After having spoken thus ["This is My body…This is My blood"], the Lord rose up from the place where He had made the Passover and had given His Body as food and His Blood as drink, and He went with His disciples to the place where He was to be arrested. But He ate of His own Body and drank of His own Blood, while He was pondering on the dead. With His own hands the Lord presented His own Body to be eaten, and before He was crucified He gave His blood as drink… (Treatises 12:6)

St. Ephraim (c. 306 - 373 A.D.)

Our Lord Jesus took in His hands what in the beginning was only bread; and He blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy in the name of the Father and in the name of the Spirit; and He broke it and in His gracious kindness He distributed it to all His disciples one by one. He called the bread His living Body, and did Himself fill it with Himself and the Spirit. And extending His hand, He gave them the Bread which His right hand had made holy: "Take, all of you eat of this, which My word has made holy. Do not now regard as bread that which I have given you; but take, eat this Bread [of life], and do not scatter the crumbs; for what I have called My Body, that it is indeed. One particle from its crumbs is able to sanctify thousands and thousands, and is sufficient to afford life to those who eat of it. Take, eat, entertaining no doubt of faith, because this is My Body, and whoever eats it in belief eats in it Fire and Spirit. But if any doubter eat of it, for him it will be only bread. And whoever eats in belief the Bread made holy in My name, if he be pure, he will be preserved in his purity; and if he be a sinner, he will be forgiven." But if anyone despise it or reject it or treat it with ignominy, it may be taken as a certainty that he treats with ignominy the Son, who called it and actually made it to be His Body.
After the disciples had eaten the new and holy Bread, and when they understood by faith that they had eaten of Christ's body, Christ went on to explain and to give them the whole Sacrament. He took and mixed a cup of wine. Then He blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy, declaring that it was His own Blood, which was about to be poured out…Christ commanded them to drink, and He explained to them that the cup which they were drinking was His own Blood: "This is truly My Blood, which is shed for all of you. Take, all of you, drink of this, because it is a new covenant in My Blood. As you have seen Me do, do you also in My memory. Whenever you are gathered together in My name in Churches everywhere, do what I have done, in memory of Me. Eat My Body, and drink My Blood, a covenant new and old." (Homilies 4:4; 4:6)

St. Athanasius (c. 295 - 373 A.D.)

You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ….Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine -- and thus is His Body confected. (Sermon to the Newly Baptized, from Eutyches)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 350 A.D.)

For just as the bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine the Blood of Christ…(Catechetical Lectures 19 [Mystagogic 1], 7)
This one teaching of the blessed Paul is enough to give you complete certainty about the Divine Mysteries, by your having been deemed worthy of which, you have become united in body and blood with Christ. For Paul proclaimed clearly that: "On the night in which He was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ, taking bread and giving thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying: 'Take, eat, This is My Body.' And taking the cup and giving thanks, He said, 'Take, drink, This is My Blood.'" He Himself, therefore, having declared and said of the Bread, "This is My Body," who will dare any longer to doubt? And when He Himself has affirmed and said, "This is My Blood," who can ever hesitate and say it is not His Blood? (22 [Mystagogic 4], 1)
Once in Cana of Galilee He changed the water into wine, a thing related to blood; and is His changing of wine into Blood not credible? When invited to an ordinary marriage, with a miracle He performed that glorious deed. And is it not much more to be confessed that He has betowed His Body and His Blood upon the wedding guests?(22 [Mystagogic 4], 2)
Do not, therefore, regard the Bread and the Wine as simply that; for they are, according to the Master's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but -- be fully assured by the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ.(22 [Mystagogic 4], 6)
Having learned these things, and being fully convinced that the apparent bread is not bread, even though it is sensible to the taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the apparent Wine is not wine, even though the taste would have it so… (22 [Mystagogic 4], 9)
Then, having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual songs, we call upon the benevolent God to send out the Holy Spirit upon the gifts which have been laid out: that He may make the bread the Body of Christ, and the wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Spirit touches, that is sanctified and changed.(23 [Mystagogic 5], 7)
Then, upon the completion of the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless worship, over that PROPITIATORY victim we call upon God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world, for kings, for soldiers and allies, for the sick, for the afflicted; and in summary, we all pray and OFFER THIS SACRIFICE FOR ALL WHO ARE IN NEED.
Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep; for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this HOLY AND MOST SOLEMN SACRIFICE IS LAID OUT.
For I know that there are many who are saying this: 'If a soul departs from this world with sins, what does it profit it to be remembered in the prayer?'…[we] grant a remission of their penalties…we too offer prayers to Him for those who have fallen asleep though they be sinners. We do not plait a crown, but OFFER UP CHRIST WHO HAS BEEN SACRIFICED FOR OUR SINS; AND WE THEREBY PROPITIATE THE BENEVOLENT GOD FOR THEM AS WELL AS FOR OURSELVES. (23 [Mystagogic 5], 8, 9, 10)

St. Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315 - 368 A.D.)

When we speak of the reality of Christ's nature being in us, we would be speaking foolishly and impiously -- had we not learned it from Him. For He Himself says: "My Flesh is truly Food, and My Blood is truly Drink. He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will remain in Me and I in Him." As to the reality of His Flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord Himself and by our own faith, it is truly Flesh and it is truly Blood. And These Elements bring it about, when taken and consumed, that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Is this not true? Let those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God be free to find these things untrue. But He Himself is in us through the flesh and we are in Him, while that which we are with Him is in God. (The Trinity 8:14)

St. Basil the Great (c. 330 - 379 A.D.)

To communicate each day and to partake of the holy Body and Blood of Christ is good and beneficial; for He says quite plainly: "He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life." Who can doubt that to share continually in life is the same thing as having life abundantly? We ourselves communicate four times each week…and on other days if there is a commemoration of any saint. (Letter of Basil to a Patrician Lady Caesaria)

St. Gregory of Nazianz (c. 330 - 389 A.D.)

The tongue of a priest meditating on the Lord raises the sick. Do, then, the greater thing by celebrating the liturgy, and loose the great mass of my sins when you lay hold of the Sacrifice of the Resurrection. Most Reverend friend, Cease not to pray and plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when in an unbloody cutting you cut the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for a sword. (Letter of Gregory to Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium)

St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 - 394 A.D.)

This Body, by the indwelling of God the Word, has been made over to divine dignity. Rightly then, do we believe that the bread consecrated by the word of God has been made over into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was, as to its potency, bread; but it has been consecrated by the lodging there of the Word, who pitched His tent in the flesh. From the same cause, therefore, by which the bread that was made over into that Body is made to change into divine strength, a similar result now takes place. As in the former case, in which the grace of the Word made holy that body the substance of which is from bread, and in a certain manner is itself bread, so in this case too, the bread, as the Apostle says, "is consecrated by God's word and by prayer"; not through its being eaten does it advance to become the Body of the Word, but it is made over immediately into the Body by means of the word, just as was stated by the Word, "This is My Body!" …In the plan of His grace He spreads Himself to every believer by means of that Flesh, the substance of which is from wine and bread, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, so that by this union with the Immortal, man, too, may become a participant in incorruption. These things He bestows through the power of the blessing which transforms the nature of the visible things to that [of the Immortal]. (The Great Catechism 37)
The bread again is at first common bread; but when the mystery sanctifies it, it is called and actually becomes the Body of Christ. So too the mystical oil, so too the wine; if they are things of little worth before the blessing, after their sanctification by the Spirit each of them has its own superior operation. This same power of the word also makes the priest venerable and honorable, separated from the generality of men by the new blessing bestowed upon him. (Sermon on the Day of Lights or On the Baptism of Christ)
He offered Himself for us, Victim and Sacrifice, and Priest as well, and "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." When did He do this? When He made His own Body food and His own Blood drink for His disciples; for this much is clear enough to anyone, that a sheep cannot be eaten by a man unless its being eaten be preceded by its being slaughtered. This giving of His own Body to His disciples for eating clearly indicates that the sacrifice of the Lamb has now been completed.(Sermon One on the Resurrection of Christ)

St. Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 315 - 403 A.D.)

We see that the Savior took in His hands, as it is in the Gospel, when He was reclining at the supper; and He took this, and giving thanks, He said: "This is really Me." And He gave to His disciples and said: "This is really Me." And we see that It is not equal nor similar, not to the incarnate image, not to the invisible divinity, not to the outline of His limbs. For It is round of shape, and devoid of feeling. As to Its power, He means to say even of Its grace, "This is really Me"; and none disbelieves His word. For anyone who does not believe the truth in what He says is deprived of grace and of Savior. (The Man Well-Anchored 57)

Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 428 A.D.)

He did not say, "This is the symbol of My Body, and this, of My Blood," but "This is My Body and My Blood," teaching us not to look upon the nature of what is set before us, but that it is transformed by means of the Eucharistic action into Flesh and Blood. (Commentary on Matthew 26:26)
It is proper, therefore, that when [Christ] gave the Bread He did not say, "This is the symbol of My Body," but, "This is My Body." In the same way when He gave the Cup He did not say, "This is the symbol of My Blood," but, "This is My Blood"; for He wanted us to look upon the [Eucharistic elements] after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit not according to their nature, but [that we should] receive them as they are, the Body and Blood of our Lord. We ought…not regard the [Eucharistic elements] merely as bread and cup, but as the Body and Blood of Christ, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit.(Catechetical Homilies 5)
[If we have sinned], the Body and Blood of our Lord…will strengthen us…if with diligence we do good works and turn from evil deeds and truly repent of the sins that befall us, undoubtedly we shall obtain the grace of the remission of our sins in our receiving of the holy Sacrament. (Catechetical Homilies 16)
At first [the offering] is laid upon the altar as mere bread, and wine mixed with water; but by the coming of the Holy Spirit it is transformed into the Body and the Blood, and thus it is changed into the power of a spiritual and immortal nourishment. (Catechetical Homilies 16)

St. John Chrysostom (c. 344 - 407 A.D.)

When you see the Lord IMMOLATED and lying upon the ALTAR, and the priest bent over that SACRIFICE praying, and all the people empurpled by that PRECIOUS BLOOD, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven? (Priesthood 3:4:177)
Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the SACRIFICIAL VICTIM WHO IS PLACED THEREON! (Homilies on Romans 8:8)
Christ is present. The One [Christ] who prepared that [Holy Thursday] table is the very One who now prepares this [altar] table. For it is not a man who makes the SACRIFICIAL GIFTS BECOME the Body and Blood of Christ, but He that was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and the grace is of God, "THIS IS MY BODY," he says. This statement TRANSFORMS the gifts. (Homilies on Treachery of Judas 1:6)
Let us therefore in all respects put our faith in God and contradict Him in nothing, even if what is said seems to be contrary to our reasonings and to what we see. Let His WORD be of superior authority to reason and sight. This too be our practice in respect to the [Eucharistic] Mysteries, not looking only upon what is laid out before us, but taking heed also of His WORDS. For His WORD cannot deceive; but our senses are easily cheated. His WORD never failed; our senses err most of the time. When the WORD says, "THIS IS MY BODY," be convinced of it and believe it, and look at it with the eyes of the mind. For Christ did not give us something tangible, but even in His tangible things all is intellectual. So too with Baptism: the gift is bestowed through what is a tangible thing, water; but what is accomplished is intellectually perceived: the REBIRTH and the RENEWAL….How many now say, "I wish I could see his shape, His appearance, His garments, His sandals." ONLY LOOK! YOU SEE HIM! YOU TOUCH HIM! YOU EAT HIM! (Homilies on Matthew 82:4)
Take care, then, lest you too become guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ [1 Cor 11:27]. They slaughtered His most holy body; but you, after such great benefits, receive HIM into a filthy soul. For it was not enough for Him to be made Man, to be struck and to be slaughtered, but He even mingles Himself with us; and this NOT BY FAITH ONLY, but even in every DEED He makes us His BODY. How very pure, then, ought he not be, who enjoys the benefit of this SACRIFICE? (82:5)
…if everywhere grace required worthiness, there could neither then be Baptism nor Body of Christ nor the sacrifice priests offer… He has transferred the priestly action [of ancient times] to what is most awesome and magnificent. He has changed the sacrifice itself, and instead of the butchering of dumb beasts, He commands the offering up of Himself….What is that Bread? The Body of Christ! What do they become who are partakers therein? The Body of Christ! Not many bodies, but one Body….For you are not nourished by one Body while someone else is nourished by another Body; rather, all are nourished by the same Body….When you see [the Body of Christ] lying on the altar, say to yourself, "Because of this Body I am no longer earth and ash, no longer a prisoner, but free. Because of this Body I hope for heaven, and I hope to receive the good things that are in heaven, immortal life, the lot of the angels, familiar conversation with Christ. This Body, scourged and crucified, has not been fetched by death…This is that Body which was blood-stained, which was pierced by a lance, and from which gushed forth those saving fountains, one of blood and the other of water, for all the world"…This is the Body which He gave us, both to hold in reserve and to eat, which was appropriate to intense love; for those whom we kiss with abandon we often even bite with our teeth. (Homilies on Corinthians 8, 1[2]; 24, 2[3]; 24, 2[4]; 24, 4[7])
"So also was Christ offered once." [Hebrews 7-10] By whom was He offered? Quite evidently, by Himself. Here [Paul] shows that Christ was not Priest only, but also Victim and Sacrifice. Therein do we find the reason for the words "was offered." "He was offered once," [Paul] says, "to take away the sins of many." Why does he say of many and not of all? Because not all have believed. He did indeed die for all, for the salvation of all, which was His part….But He did not take away the sins of all men, because they did not will it….What then? Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of His death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this Sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This Sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one Sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the Sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one Body. And just as He is one Body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one Sacrifice. (Homilies on Hebrews 17, 2[4]; 17, 3[6])
Not in vain was it decreed BY THE APOSTLES that in the awesome Mysteries remembrance should be made of the DEPARTED. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. For when the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome SACRIFICIAL VICTIM is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have DEPARTED in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf. (Homilies on Philippians 3:4)

Apostolic Constitutions (c. 400 A.D.)

A bishop gives the blessing, he does not receive it. He imposes hands, he ordains, he OFFERS THE SACRIFICE…A deacon does not bless. He does not bestow blessing, but he receives it from bishop and presbyter. He does not baptize; he does not OFFER THE SACRIFICE. When a bishop or a presbyter OFFERS THE SACRIFICE, he distributes to the laity, not as a priest, but as one who is ministering to priests. (8:28:2-4)

St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 333 - 397 A.D.)

We saw the Prince of Priests coming to us, we saw and heard Him offering His blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests; and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. And even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. For even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is He Himself that is offered in sacrifice here on earth when the body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer Himself He is made visible in us, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered. (Commentaries on Psalms 38:25)
A priest must offer something in sacrifice and according to the Law he must enter the holy place through blood. Therefore, because God had repudiated the blood of bulls and of rams, it was necessary for this Priest, as you have read, to enter into the Holy of Holies, penetrating the heights of heaven, by means of His own blood, so that He might become an eternal oblation for our sins. Priest and Victim, therefore, are one and the same. But the priesthood and the sacrifice are a duty of the human condition; for like a lamb He was led to the slaughter, and He is a priest according to the order of Melchisedech. (The Faith 3:11:87)
"My flesh is truly food and My blood is truly drink." You hear Him speak of His flesh, you hear Him speak of His blood, you know the sacred signs of the Lord's death; and do you worry about His divinity? Hear His words when he says: "A spirit has not flesh and bones." As often as we receive the sacramental elements which through the mystery of the sacred prayer are transformed into the flesh and blood of the Lord, we proclaim the death of the Lord. (The Faith 4:10:124)
Perhaps you may be saying: I see something else; how can you assure me that I am receiving the Body of Christ? It but remains for us to prove it. And how many are the examples we might use! Let us prove that this is not what nature has shaped it to be, but what the blessing has consecrated; for the power of the blessing is greater than that of nature, because by the blessing even nature itself is changed…Christ is in that Sacrament, because it is the Body of Christ; yet, it is not on that account corporeal food, but spiritual. Whence also His Apostle says of the type: "For our fathers ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink" (1 Cor 10:2-4; 15:44). For the body of God is a spiritual body. (The Mysteries 9:50; 9:58)
You may perhaps say: "My bread is ordinary." But that bread is bread before the words of the Sacraments; where the consecration has entered in, the bread becomes the flesh of Christ. And let us add this: How can what is bread be the Body of Christ? By the consecration. The consecration takes place by certain words; but whose words? Those of the Lord Jesus. Like all the rest of the things said beforehand, they are said by the priest; praises are referred to God, prayer of petition is offered for the people, for kings, for other persons; but when the time comes for the confection of the venerable Sacrament, then the priest uses not his own words but the words of Christ. Therefore it is the word of Christ that confects this Sacrament….Before it be consecrated it is bread; but where the words of Christ come in, it is the Body of Christ. Finally, hear Him saying: "All of you take and eat of this; for this is My Body." And before the words of Christ the chalice is full of wine and water; but where the words of Christ have been operative it is made the Blood of Christ, which redeems the people. (The Sacraments 4:4:14; 4:5:23)

St. Jerome (c. 347 - 420 A.D.)

Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these clergy who, in succession from the Apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ, and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians… (Letter of Jerome to Heliodorus)
The flesh and blood of Christ is understood in two ways; there is either the spiritual and divine way, by which He Himself said: "My flesh is truly food, and my blood is truly drink"; and "Unless you shall have eaten my flesh and drunk my blood you shall not have eternal life." Or else there is the flesh and blood which was crucified and which was poured out by the soldier's lance. (Commentaries on Ephesians 1:1:7)
After the type had been fulfilled by the passover celebration and He had eaten the flesh of the lamb with His Apostles, He takes bread which strengthens the heart of man, and goes on to the true Sacrament of the passover, so that just as Melchisedech, the priest of the Most High God, in prefiguring Him, made bread and wine an offering, He too makes Himself manifest in the reality of His own Body and Blood. (Commentaries on Matthew 4:26:26)

St. Augustine (c. 354 - 430 A.D.)

"That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God IS THE BODY OF CHRIST. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend HIS BODY AND BLOOD, WHICH HE POURED OUT FOR US UNTO THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS." (Sermons 227)
"The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, BECOMES CHRIST'S BODY." (Sermons 234:2)
"What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that THE BREAD IS THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THE CHALICE [WINE] THE BLOOD OF CHRIST." (Sermons 272)
"How this ['And he was carried in his own hands'] should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. FOR CHRIST WAS CARRIED IN HIS OWN HANDS, WHEN, REFERRING TO HIS OWN BODY, HE SAID: 'THIS IS MY BODY.' FOR HE CARRIED THAT BODY IN HIS HANDS." (Psalms 33:1:10)
"Was not Christ IMMOLATED only once in His very Person? In the Sacrament, nevertheless, He is IMMOLATED for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being IMMOLATED." (Letters 98:9)
"Christ is both the Priest, OFFERING Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the SACRAMENTAL SIGN of this should be the daily Sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to OFFER herself through Him." (City of God 10:20)
"By those sacrifices of the Old Law, this one Sacrifice is signified, in which there is a true remission of sins; but not only is no one forbidden to take as food the Blood of this Sacrifice, rather, all who wish to possess life are exhorted to drink thereof." (Questions on the Heptateuch 3:57)
"Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator is OFFERED for them, or when alms are given in the church." (Letter: Faith, Hope, Love 29:110)
"But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the SALVIFIC SACRIFICE, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH OBSERVES THIS PRACTICE WHICH WAS HANDED DOWN BY THE FATHERS that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the Sacrifice itself; and the Sacrifice is OFFERED also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, the works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death." (Sermons 172:2)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

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

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Love the Saints

Did you ever have a Christian friend who you looked up to for wisdom and advice in helping you to follow the Lord? Did you ever have someone in your life who was so close to Jesus you just wanted to be like them and loved spending time with them?
I sure did as a young Christian and now since returning home to the Catholic Church I have found many precious examples of folks who lived and walked so very close to the Lord. I love to pray the prayers of these saints so that Jesus can transform me more and more into His image as He did for them. Saint Faustina has become a favorite of mine as she was for the late John Paul 2 . (He may have been a little partial since she was from Poland also)
May this be the prayer of all of our hearts:

"I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors' souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors' needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me .

O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself , for you can do all things."

From the Diary of Saint Faustina 1930

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Know Ourselves by Knowing God

"We shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavoring to know God; for, beholding His greatness, we realize our own littleness; His purity shows us our foulness; and by meditating upon His humility we find how very far we are from being humble. "

St. Teresa of Avila

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

The first Sunday after Pentecost is the day the Church honors and celebrates the Trinity. Today's Gospel reading is from Matthew 28.

"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

The word "trinity" itself is not in Scripture but was first coined by the Latin theologian Tertullian, sometime around 190 AD. Christians accept trinitarian doctrine as divinely revealed and implicit in the Scriptures. The Trinity is an example of the term "developed doctrine." Meaning, the early church may have started to recognize the mystery of the Trinity, but didn't fully "flesh it out" and annunciate the doctrine until centuries after the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There were some in the early church who were teaching and spreading heresy regarding the divine nature of Jesus . Bishop Arius believed and taught that Christ was somehow less than God, a "demi-god" so to speak. This erroneous teaching caught on and spread like wildfire, particularly in the eastern churches. The Church needed to declare, espouse, annuciate, and settle once and for all the truth that Christians believe in one God, in whom there are three distinct persons. This resulted in the creed that the Catholic Church Council of Nicea in 325 AD wrote and promulgated. All Christians were bound by this creed if they desired to remain in the Catholic Church. The proclamation of the Council doesn't infer that the Trinity doctrine was new at that time, but it was officially stated and promulgated to put all dissent to rest.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church's living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis, and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

During the first centuries the Church sought to clarify its Trinitarian faith, both to deepen its own understanding of the faith and to defend it against the errors that were deforming it. This clarification was the work of the early councils, aided by the theological work of the Church Fathers and sustained by the Christian people's sense of the faith."

Nicean Creed
We believe in one God the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried. On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

This creed and the belief in the Holy Trinity was being proclaimed even before the books of the New Testament had been canonized in the end of the fourth century at the Councils of Hippo, then later at Carthage. This simple chronology points out the reality that the Bible alone
cannot possibly be the source of all truth and doctrine, particularly when such doctrines were being taught and defended by the Universal Church before the New Testament Scriptures were ever canonized or readily available to the average believer.

Actually, in preparing today's blog I happened upon a website that listed 100 Scripture "proof texts" from the Bible to defend and bolster their heretical notion that the doctrine of the Trinity isn't Scriptural.
Wow! The heresy of Arius never really ended in the fourth century with the Creed of Nicea and it's sad to see folks twisting Scripture in the third millenium to defend heresy.
I thank God that the Church is the pillar and foundation of all truth (1 Tim 3:15). Otherwise, we too perhaps could choose error if left to our own devices and just our own interpretation of the Bible
. But by the grace of God.....
A discussion on the Council of Nicea :

Friday, June 09, 2006

Feast of Saint Ephrem

Today is the feast of St. Ephrem. A day that the church honors this poet, teacher, orator and defender of the faith. He lived from 306 - 373 AD in Syria. St. Ephrem is recognized as one of the "Doctors of the Church." He fought heresy at the time by taking the heretic's melodies and composing beautiful hymns that incorporated orthodox doctrine. He was known as the "Harp of the Holy Spirit."
One of his hymns below:

Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.
(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)

In the fourth century we have evidence in a hymn that Christians interceded for one another after death. This is a bit of historical evidence that prayers for the souls of people after death was an ancient practice of the early church as it was for the Jews before them.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Unity of Sacred Tradition and Scripture

I touched on this a few days ago in describing the authority by which the Church interprets and illuminates Scripture. Here are some further points. The common objection by protestants is that Sacred Tradition "trumps" Scripture. However, there is no scriptural basis to justify the Bible as being the sole and supreme source of divinely revealed truth. Logic itself would tell us that no book can be self- authenticating. We believe the Bible is God's inspired word based on the Tradition of the Catholic Church. Even Martin Luther reluctantly conceded that we have the Bible as God's Word because of the Catholic Church: "We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of GOD, that we received it from them, and that without them we should have no knowledge of it at all."

The following statements will clarify the relationship of Sacred Tradition and Scripture.

"Since Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture come from one and the same divine source, there is a close connection between them, both forming one sacred deposit of the word of God. One of them is not complete without the other. As the words themselves imply, SACRED SCRIPTURE is the written word of God divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit; and SACRED TRADITION is divinely guided “handing down” of that revealed truth entrusted to the apostles, and passed on written or unwritten. Hence the second Vatican Council declares:

“It is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything that has been revealed. Therefore, both sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of devotion and reverence” (ibid. 9).

And since, as we have seen, Christ established a living teaching authority to interpret in His name and hand down His revealed word, the same Vatican Council concludes:

“It is clear, therefore, that sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church (the magisterium), in accord with God’s most wise designs, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls” (ibid. 10).

Father Paul Duffner, O.P.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sometimes The Bible is Hard to Understand Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about the need for an independent authority that would supervene in cases where Scripture is unclear. If you are a "Bible only" subscriber, you wittingly or unwittingly become your own independent authority. You become convinced with prayer and study that your interpretation is the correct one. If the same Holy Spirit is leading someone else to have a completely opposite view, who is right? The reality is that there is an unspoken "Tradition" that protestants use to guide their interpretations. The Calvinist have one "tradition" that guides their interpretation, the Arminians another, the dispensationalists another, the Pentecostals another and so on...... Catholics believe in what is called Sacred Tradition, passed on from the apostles to the early church fathers and preciously held as the "deposit of faith." We acknowledge this Tradition and believe God inspires it as He does the Scripture.
As a Catholic, I believe, based on Matt 16, that Christ founded a church and gave his apostles the authority to bind , loose, forgive etc. This included the church functioning as the "pillar and foundation of truth" as Paul wrote to Timothy. It is this Sacred Tradition that guides Catholics in one unified truth and interpretation of Scripture. Paul exhorted Timothy to hold fast to the word, both spoken and written and to hold to the traditions that had been taught and handed down to him. Protestants often use Jesus words about the "traditions of men" to negate Sacred Tradition. They are two very different concepts and Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees for using "man made" traditions to circumvent obedience to the Law.(Like honoring their parents) The Catholic use of Tradition is to illuminate Scripture, not negate it. Sacred Tradition never goes against Scripture.

Regarding that obscure and difficult verse of Paul's yesterday, the traditional Catholic interpretation suggests that the word "baptism" can refer to more than just water baptism. Jesus used the term baptism in Mark 10:38-39 to refer to trials and afflictions. The trials and afflictions that we undergo can be offered up for the souls of those who have died. But this would be useless if there is no resurrection of the dead. It was the practice of the early church to pray for the dead as evidenced by the writings on tombs in the Catecombs. Therefore, when this letter of Paul's was read aloud to the early church in Corinth it did not cause as much confusion as it does in these post reformation days. Of course this interpretation is dismissed by the reformers because it pointed to the Catholic doctrine of a purification after death called Purgatory.
So what was Paul thinking as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit? Where did this come from? In keeping with Paul's habit of using Scripture to make points in his letters, it is likely from an Old Testament Scripture.
"He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of 2000 drachmas of silver and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. (2 Maccabees 12: 43-45)
Is it a far stretch to see that Paul may have been inspired by this verse when he wrote about the resurrection :"Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead if the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?"

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sometimes The Bible is Hard to Understand

I love the Bible. I spent many hours as a young teen reading, quoting and thinking about the Scriptures. My favorite books were the Psalms because I could relate to David's struggles and his desire to seek after God. Granted, I wasn't running for my life, just trying to get good grades in Calculus and figure out how to treat my girlfriend in a godly way in the 1970's. (and trying to figure out where in the Bible it said I had to cut my hair and stop playing the banjo!) I know the Holy Spirit of God inspired men to write the letters and stories later compiled as the Bible, but honestly, sometimes it's just plain HARD TO UNDERSTAND!
For example:
No disrespect to you St. Paul, but what the heck were you talking about in 1 Corinthians15:29? "Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?" (Gee, I wonder why that verse never showed up in vacation bible school as memory verse of the week?) There are over 7 separate interpretations of this verse by protestant theologians. Does this verse means we should baptize people "in proxy" as the Mormons believe? Without a final authority to help steer their thinking, you could see why they could come up with that heresy based on a "plain" reading of this Scripture. Even St. Peter said some of Paul's writings were "hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction as they do other Scriptures."
(2 Peter 3:16) Other people twist Paul's treatise on faith and the law to "prove" that good works have no value in the process of salvation. (Basically ignoring the Gospels and the Book of James) Folks tend to get in trouble reading the Bible when you exclude or ignore some verses/chapters to "proof text" your own novel theory or doctrine.
So I am in pretty good company when I said some Scriptures are Hard to Understand.

More on this tomorrow, but I just bring this up to support my ever strengthening belief in the Teaching Magisterium (office) of the Catholic Church. They guard the final interpretation of Scripture so even though we are encouraged by the Church to read and pray with Scripture, we won't be allowed to come up with a new and novel interpretation of a verse by our own "private interpretation." No matter how good it feels, or right it seems, or has the "evangelium" on it, the Church does not allow me the option of discerning new and interesting doctrine from my own take on the Bible. As a rebellious teen, I berated my Catholic mom for telling me "You're not supposed to intoypet (yes, she said interpret like that in a New Joisey accent) the Bible yourself Bobby!"
Now I can really understand what she meant and why. Maybe if Luther listened to his Mom, we wouldn't be in this fine kettle of fish that we find ourselves. Oh well, my Mom has the last laugh now. Who would ever thought I would return to the Church that doesn't allow me to "interpet" the Bible.