So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thes. 2:15)
A few weeks ago, After successfully navigating through the Vatican’s website (which was in turn named as the 2nd confirmed miracle of St. John XXIII), I stumbled upon a document that was cited at the bottom of a page in the Catechism. Upon opening the document, I found that was it several hundred pages long.
The document I had stumbled upon was the Patristica Denzinger – a comprehensive list of all Church dogma, where they came from, heresies that formed, and a line-by-line dissection of the exact quotes from the heretics, as well as an explanation for why exactly the heresies were wrong, and what the correct Christian understanding was. The document starts in the first century AD, and spans all the way until the late 1900s. As I was sifting through the document, a real sense of wonder came over me. I was reading the preserved, unabridged words of the forefathers of the Church, defending against heresies and defining what the Church actually believed in great detail, even 1900 years ago. The number of times the Eucharist was mentioned and clarified was also telling that the Church has not only always believed in it, but that it was a matter of great importance. A quick glance at the document will be enough to show that to the Church, the truth has always been worth fighting for.
The early Church fathers spoke frequently of the Eucharist – some died defending it. I will share a few of my favorite examples:
In 155 AD, a little more than a century after Jesus’s death and resurrection, a man named Justin sat down with the Roman Emporer, Antoninus, to talk with him about the Eucharist. The following is a quote from St. Justin to the emperor:
And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist] - For not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; 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, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”
Another prominent theologian who preceded St. Justin, St. Ignatius of Antioch, also spoke of the Eucharist, most notably in his "Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.
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.
 heterodox - any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position
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.
Statements come with consequences. If you are willing to state that the Eucharist is not the true body and true of Christ, then you must be also willing to state that as soon as Jesus left us we messed everything up. You must be willing to state that the early Christians who celebrated Mass were wrong, and that they died for a lie. You must be willing to claim intellectual superiority to Theological Giants such as St. Justin, St. Irenaeus, St. Ignatius, and Thomas Aquinas, who spent their lives writing and evangelizing on the Eucharist.
As Peter Kreeft mentions in his book Jesus Shock , the Eucharist must either be what the Catholic Church describes it as, in which case non-Catholic Christians are missing the most key, integral, and important encounter with the Lord, or that modern Catholics and early Christians have been completely wrong, and have stooped to idolatry. When Jesus mentioned this in John 6, he knew it was a difficult thing to accept (Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?"), and many turned away. If the Eucharist shocks you, it should. The only remaining question is whether or not you choose to turn away.
And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:2)
Note: The book mentioned in this blog post, Jesus Shock, as well as the book Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor, are available for free through the UC Society of Saint Paul. Both deal extensively with questions about the Eucharist. If you would like either book, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org