Anglicans have long respected and used as normative the writings of the Church Fathers. Here is a small collection of short texts dealing with the Eucharist that I thought were very useful. Use them, not for study, but for spiritual encouragement (to put courage into yourself). Regular participation in the Eucharist is a big part of my own spiritual practice and I go on the assumption that Jesus is somehow really present in the consecrated bread and wine. When we receive the Eucharist we establish a mystical but very real connection with Jesus, and since Jesus is divine, with God himself. The Eucharist is, thus, one of the ways that we meet and find union with God. I will try to follow this up with other posts dealing with Anglican Eucharistic teaching.
Ignatius of Antioch (d. between 110-117)
Each one individually and all of you together are united in one and the same faith in Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Son of God, in obedience to the bishop and the priests, in harmony, breaking one loaf of bread which is the medicine of immortality, an antidote to death that gives eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Irenaeus of Lyons (130-208)
As far as we are concerned, our thinking accords with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in its turn confirms our thinking. We offer to God what is his own, as we proclaim the communion and union of flesh and Spirit. For in the same way that earthly bread, after having received the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread but Eucharist, made up of two components, one earthly the other heavenly, so our bodies that share in the Eucharist are no longer corruptible, because they have the hope of the resurrection.
Ephraim of Syria (306-373)
Fire and the Spirit are in our baptism. In the bread and the cup also are fire and the Spirit.
Cyril of Jerusalem (315-387)
We pray God to send the Holy Spirit on the gifts laid here, to make the bread the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ. For the Holy Spirit sanctifies and transforms all that he touches.
Gregory of Nyssa (330-395)
What then is this remedy? Nothing other than that glorious body which showed itself stronger than death and has become the source of life for us. Just as a little leaven, according to the Apostle’s words, is mixed with all the dough, so the body that was raised by God to immortality, once it is introduced into our body, wholly changes it and transforms it into his own substance…
The Word of God…once it became incarnate…provided his body with the means of subsistence in the usual suitable ways: he maintained its substance with the help of…bread. Even in normal conditions, when one sees bread, one sees in a sense the human body, since bread absorbed by the body becomes the body itself. So here, the body in which God had become incarnate, since it was fed on bread, was in a sense identical with the bread–the food transforming itself, as we have said, to take on the nature of the body. It was recognized, in fact, that this glorious flesh possessed the property common to all human beings: like them it was maintained with the help of bread. But this body partook of the divine dignity because of the indwelling of the Word. We are therefore entitled to believe that the bread hallowed by the Word of God is transformed to become the body of the Word…
As the bread transformed into that body was thereby raised to divine power, a similar change happens to the bread of the Eucharist. In the former case the grace of the Word hallowed the body that drew its substance from bread, and in a sense was itself bread. Likewise in the Eucharist the bread is hallowed by the Word of God and prayer…It is transformed at once into his body…as expressed in these words: “This is my body”…
That is why, in the economy of grace, he gives himself as seed to all the faithful. His flesh composed of bread and wine is blended with their bodies to enable human beings, thanks to their union with his immortal body, to share in the condition of incorruptibility.
You here it said that every time the sacrifice is offered, the Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension are represented, the forgiveness of sins is offered, and yet do you not receive this bread of life every day? Anyone who is wounded looks for healing. For us it is a wound to be liable to sin. Our healing lies in the adorable heavenly sacrament…
If you receive it every day, every day becomes for you Today.
If Christ is yours today, he rises for you today. Today has come.
John Chrysostom (344-407)
On high, the armies of the angels are giving praise. Here below, in the Church, the human choir takes up after them the same doxology. Above us, angels of fire make the thrice-holy hymn resound magnificently. Here below is raised the echo of their hymn. The festival of heaven’s citizens is united with that of the inhabitants of earth in a single thanksgiving, a single upsurge of happiness, a single chorus of joy.
Just as the head and the body constitute a single human being, so Christ and the Church constitute a single whole…This union is effected through the food that he has given us in his desire to show the love he has for us. For this reason he united himself intimately with us, he blended his body with ours like leaven, so that we should become one single entity, as the body is joined to the head.
Do you wish to honor the body of the Saviour? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honor it in church with silk vestments while outside you are leaving it numb with cold and naked. He who said, “This is my body”, and made it so by his word, is the same that said, “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” Honor him then by sharing your property with the poor. For what God needs is not golden chalices but golden souls.