On Tuesday of Holy Week, just under a year ago, a stranger asked me if I was Catholic, and I said no. It would not have occurred to me at that time that my answer would be different in a year. This month I will be confirmed and received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This is my story.
I wasn’t looking to change churches. I was content, more than content, in the vibrant, growing Evangelical church that my husband and I were attending. In fact, it seemed like a perfect fit for us. We were getting more involved than we had been in a long time. We were in a small group Bible Study, getting to know people. The sermons were strong, and challenging. Worship was uplifting, and the worship team was talented. Opportunities for growth and ministry were everywhere. I was making friends. I was, for the first time in many years, really starting to connect. I wasn’t looking for change.
And after 45 years as an Evangelical Protestant, I sure as heck wasn’t looking to become Catholic.
Looking back, I think it started in the fall of 2014, in Italy, although I didn’t know it at the time. On a trip with my sister that took us from Venice to Sorrento, via Florence, Tuscany, and Rome, we toured countless ancient churches and monasteries, all of them Catholic. Some were magnificent cathedrals while other were understated on the outside, but glorious on the inside. All had in common a palpable sense of sacredness. As a tourist, I walked around in these beautiful sanctuaries, admiring the architecture, statues and paintings, taking photos, and sometimes just sitting in a pew and listening to the quiet. I watched other tourists enter who seemed to belong, to know what to do. They would enter reverently, dip their fingers in the basin of holy water in the vestibule, and make the sign of the cross before entering the sanctuary. At some point in my life I might have viewed that sort of action as meaningless ritual, but in the setting of these magnificent churches, it seemed appropriate. I admired them. I remember feeling a bit like an outsider. I was impressed with the devotion I observed, and I think at that point I became somewhat curious. At the very least, I became less suspicious and more respectful of Catholic Christianity.
One evening, in the medieval hill town of Montepulciano in Tuscany, we watched two elderly Italian ladies walk arm in arm up hill from the bus stop to a church, as the bells were ringing. Evening Mass? It wasn’t Sunday. Do people really go to church every day?
Assisi was on my list of places to visit. I’ve long admired St. Francis, and I even knew a few lines from his famous prayer. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace… “. We planned to go on to Assisi after a brief stop in Cortona one day, but Cortona is not a place where you can make a brief stop. We stayed longer than planned, so opted to visit a local monastery instead of driving on to Assisi. It was the “next best thing”, as St Francis had lived there for some years, and his cell was preserved and visible.
It was hard to wrap my head around the holiness and humility of the saint who lived in this tiny room and slept on this bed of rock. He owned nothing, surrendered everything he was and had to his Lord, and joyfully lived the Gospel. I wanted to know more about his life. On the flight home from Italy, I read a book called ‘Francis, the Journey and the Dream’, by Murray Bodo. The foreword was written by John Michael Talbot, whom I vaguely remembered as a Christian musician from my (much) younger days. In it, he said that God had used the original edition of that book, and the life of St Francis, to lead him to a Franciscan community, and into the Catholic Church. God will use John Michael to influence me further, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
After several days visiting the ancient hill towns of Tuscany, we went to our next destination, Rome. There, we saw the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul. We were in St. Peter’s Basilica while a service was in process. We saw the Pieta. We saw the Coliseum, where tradition has it that early believers were martyred for their faith. We saw ancient Christian “graffiti”, and I realized how little I knew about the beginnings of my faith. I had read the New Testament, of course. And I was familiar with the great heroes of my faith, the Reformers, from the sixteenth century. But what about the fifteen hundred years in between? What was the early church, the community of believers who carved the symbols I saw in Rome, really like? How did they practice their faith? What was their worship like? They endured one persecution after another for centuries. How did they find the strength to bravely face their executioners?
Our last stop in Italy was in Sorrento, and we stayed across the street from a lovely church dedicated to St. Francis. In it was a painting depicting the Saint’s death. It shows Jesus lovingly cradling Francis’ head, and when I saw it, I could imagine Him saying “well done, good and faithful servant.” It brought tears to my eyes. I sat for a long time just looking at it. It made me think about how I was spending my life. I knew that, while I was a Christian, I didn’t have anywhere near the intimacy that St Francis had with Jesus. Was that even possible for me? What did he know that I didn’t?
Italy taught me something about my faith. It taught me how little I knew of its history. I wanted to know more. I read more about St Francis after returning from Italy, as well as some Church history, but then got busy with work and life and put my questions out of my mind, or so I thought.
The following spring, God provided a few more nudges. I had a thought one day to look up John Michael Talbot on YouTube, and found that he had several albums. I downloaded some of his music on iTunes and began listening to it regularly. I loved his mellow, lyrical style, but even more so the depth of worship. Many of his songs focused on the Eucharist, Holy Communion, which stirred my heart in a way I didn’t fully understand. I participated in Communion at church, of course, but saw it as an occasional remembrance, not the center of my worship.
Just before Easter last year (2015), I had been looking for some devotional reading specific to the passion of the Lord. I found a daily Scripture and devotional for Holy Week on a Catholic website that was just what I was looking for. During that week, I had a business dealing with a jeweler in downtown Portland, and during the course of conversation the subject of church came up. For some reason he asked if I was Catholic. When I said no, but that I was a Christian, he asked if my church observed Holy Week. I realized that no, we didn’t, not in any organized way, other than a sunrise service on Easter. I told him that I was using a Catholic devotional for my personal worship that week. I didn’t see this as a significant encounter, but his willingness to bring up his faith in the context of a business meeting, and his obvious devotion and sense of the holiness of the week left an impression on me.
I had begun reading some articles by Catholic authors, especially concerning the moral issues of abortion and the sanctity of marriage. I had great respect for the firm resolve of the Catholic Church to remain true to the Faith on these issues. While reading one of these articles, I noticed an ad for a book in the sidebar. It was titled ‘Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Catholic Church’. Now, call me naive, but I didn’t catch from the title that this was a conversion story. I thought it was an explanation of Catholicism by an Evangelical author. (Probably because I didn’t think people converted to Catholicism. I thought it was something people converted from, when they found “true Christianity”). But God had used the events of the past six months to prepare my heart to want to know, and I ordered the book. It was the story of Steve and Janet Ray’s journey from Evangelical Protestant faith to the Catholic Church, a journey which was driven by their discovery of the writings and teachings of the first generations of Christians. At the end of the book, the author focuses on two key doctrines that are points of division between Evangelicals and Catholics, baptism and the Eucharist, and lays out the evidence from Scripture and the early church for the Catholic interpretation. The evidence was overwhelming. This was the hook. This led me to the writings of the Fathers, which I had never read.
In the months to follow, late spring and summer of 2015, I started reading for myself the writings of the Church Fathers, the leaders in the early church in the generations immediately following the Apostles. I became familiar with Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and more. I’ve always loved history, so this was a fascinating exercise. Right away, the differences between the faith they practiced and my own Evangelical faith were obvious. But at first, I wrote this off to the vastly different cultures. But the more I read, the more uncomfortable I became. Because they spoke with one voice, and because that voice sounded very Catholic.
As an Evangelical, I believed that I became a Christian 45 years ago, when I prayed a prayer, accepting Christ as my personal Savior. At that moment, when I said that prayer, all my sins were forgiven, past present and future, and I was sealed with the Holy Spirit and guaranteed eternal life in Heaven. I was “born again”. About a year later, I was baptized as a symbol of my new life in Christ. In remembrance of Christ’s death for me, I participated in communion, the Lord’s Supper, which was offered in some churches I had attended once a month, in others less often. It was always precious to me, but it was purely symbolic.
In Catholic teaching, a person becomes a Christian, and a child of God, at the moment of baptism. In that Sacrament, the stain of original sin and all actual sins already committed are forgiven. Sins committed after baptism require repentance and confession for forgiveness. Serious, deliberate sins require confession to a priest, who exercises apostolic authority to forgive sins on the basis of his ordination by a bishop in the apostolic succession. Because repentance is necessary for forgiveness, and because we have the free will to not repent, there is not a guarantee that the new believer will ultimately be saved, but God grants at baptism the gift of faith, and the grace of God, won through the sacrifice of Christ, provides all that is needed for the believer to persevere in the faith. Holy communion, the Eucharist, is the re-presentation, or the making present, of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. The elements of bread and wine, at the consecration by the priest in his role as the representative of Jesus Christ, become in their substance the body and blood of Christ, while retaining the appearance and taste of bread and wine. It is the Bread of Life, and is the center of Christian worship.
While Catholics and Evangelicals have much in common, these are significant differences. And there are scriptures used to defend both views. The question before me now was, how did the first generations of Christians, those who learned from the Apostles, interpret the Scriptures concerning these doctrines? Or more accurately, what did they believe, as taught by the Apostles both orally and in writing? – Because in the first three centuries of the Christian Church, there was no canonized New Testament.
What I found was that the the Catholic Church has preserved the belief and practice of the Apostles and the first generations of Christians.
For example, these early church leaders did believe that baptism was necessary for salvation. They believed it was more than a symbol of one’s already existing faith, that something real happened when the convert went into the water and came up – that his sins were at that moment washed away. It was universally recognized as how one became a Christian. In the writings from the first centuries of Christianity, Jesus’ teaching on being “born again”, born of water and the Spirit, was universally interpreted as referring to water baptism, not to a moment of conversion by prayer prior to baptism. The unbaptized were not able to receive Communion. They were not yet a part of the church. I could find no other opinion among them. (A)
I could find no teaching that supported the Evangelical doctrine of the “security of the believer”, aka “once-saved, always-saved”. I read plenty of warnings against falling away and apostasy. There was a significant dispute as to whether Christians who, under threat of execution, had denied Christ could ever be re-admitted to the Church. Nowhere was there any indication that a believer’s ultimate salvation was guaranteed. They exhorted their flock to perseverance in the faith as necessary for salvation. The notion that at conversion, all one’s sins – past, present, and future were forgiven was non-existent. All past sins were forgiven at baptism, and sins committed after baptism were forgiven via confession and penance. They believed that the authority to forgive sins which Jesus conferred on His apostles was passed down to their successors at their ordination with the laying on of hands. (B)
And then there was the Eucharist. These early Church leaders believed, all of them, that the bread and wine offered in Holy Communion became the real body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine, from the moment that it was consecrated. It was not symbolic. They believed that Jesus’ teaching on the bread of life in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John referred to the Eucharist. Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist as the Bread of Life. They took great care in their services lest a crumb of the consecrated bread should fall to the ground. And as with baptism, something very real happened when a believer received Holy Communion. The real presence of Christ in the elements provided real spiritual nourishment for the believer, real grace and strength. It was referred to as the “medicine of immortality”. It was seen as both a miracle and a mystery, one which the unbaptized were not even permitted to observe. And, the celebration of this sacrament was the central part of every early worship service. Every service. The crackers and grape juice that are offered in many churches once a month or so are a far cry from how this sacrament was regarded by the first century church. (C)
Where did they get these beliefs? I considered that because these are extra-Biblical writings, their authors might have been in error. Certainly there is that possibility, because their writings do not carry apostolic authority, and they were not recognized as the Word of God when the New Testament scripture was canonized. They are simply a testimony of what the early church believed. But their authors were the men who sat at the apostles feet, and their disciples. And there was great uniformity in their beliefs, despite the fact that they represented churches from all parts of the Roman Empire, from Jerusalem to Lyons, from Antioch to Rome. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch, and was ordained to his ministry by Peter. His friend Polycarp was a disciple of John the beloved, and was Bishop of Smyrna. Clement was bishop of Rome at the turn of the second century, ordained by Peter, and is believed to have known both Peter and Paul. He is mentioned in one of Paul’s letters. Irenaeus of Lyons was a disciple of Polycarp, making him the “spiritual grandson” of John the beloved. And most of these men gave their lives as martyrs for the faith they learned from the Apostles. The idea that they were universally teaching erroneous doctrine became implausible to me. But if what they taught was the truth, and it was not what I had always believed, what did that mean for me?
It was not easy to come to grips with the fact that what I had believed for so many decades may not be entirely true. I realized that “my” faith was not that of the first Christians.
As I read and studied, I knew that this wasn’t just academic, and a response to what I was learning became unavoidable. The dilemma I now faced was that either these early Church Fathers had fallen into error, universally, as soon as the Apostles died (or while they were still alive, in the case of some of the documents), or else many of the widely accepted doctrines I had been taught as a Protestant were wrong. I had to make a choice between Luther, Calvin and Zwingli (who disagreed with each other as much as they disagreed with the Church of Rome), or Ignatius, Justin and Irenaeus.
I chose the Fathers. I began studying Catholicism in earnest to find out if the Catholic Church of today was faithful to the teaching of the Apostles and their successors. I read literally dozens of books during the summer and fall of 2015, comparing what I was learning with Scripture. To me, the evidence was conclusive. The Church Fathers weren’t in error. The Church has spoken with one voice down through the ages. The doctrine of salvation which requires faith, baptism and perseverance, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the authority of the Church to teach and interpret Scripture, Apostolic succession, the primacy of Peter and his successors, prayers for the dead…these doctrines weren’t invented by medieval popes. All of this was present in the first generations after the apostles. I hadn’t seen it because I had never looked, and because I interpreted Scripture as I was taught, through the lens of Protestant theology. I saw now that the Catholic Church has for 2000 years faithfully preserved and taught that which the first Christian communities learned from the Apostles.
When I came to understand all this, there was no choice left to me but to become Catholic. John Henry Newman, a 19th century Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism, said it best for me, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”.
At first, it was intellectual assent to doctrine that drove my conversion. I enrolled in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at the Catholic Church in my community, and attended a few classes before ever going to Mass. At that time I was really struggling emotionally because where doctrine was leading me was not where my heart wanted to go. I loved my church. I had many friends there. Almost every Christian I knew, including those in my family, including my husband!, were Evangelicals. I loved the Evangelical culture. I loved my faith. I loved the doctrine of the “security of the believer”. But I came to a point where I knew I could no longer hold on to “my” faith, in the points where it was not in agreement with what I saw now as the clear teaching of Jesus and the apostles, which was testified to in the Scriptures and by the early Church. Even when I knew that my conversion was the will of God, I still felt like something precious was being lost to me. I knew few Catholics. I dreaded the idea of changing churches and starting over again to make friends and find my place to serve, at a time when I was just getting comfortable where I was. Also, I still carried prejudices, believing that the practice of the Catholic faith was less vibrant and personal than what I knew as an Evangelical. I thought I would have to settle for a more dry and ritualistic worship experience to be true to doctrine. But what I didn’t know was that the Lord was about to introduce me to a faith that was deeper and richer than anything I had ever experienced.
I didn’t attend Mass until after my “intellectual conversion”. I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s not hyperbole to say that the Mass changed me. There I encountered a sacredness like nothing I had known before. Not an emotional response as a result of great music and preaching, but the knowledge that I was participating in the very liturgy of Heaven, the sacrifice of the New Covenant. I was worshipping with the Saints of all ages. Even though I could not yet receive the Eucharist, when the priest said the words of consecration, acting in his authority as the representative of Christ, “This is My Body”, and “This chalice is the new covenant in My Blood”, I knew that at that moment the veil between Heaven and Earth was parted, and the same Jesus who offered Himself as the Lamb of God on the cross was offering Himself as the Passover Lamb, the new manna, the Bread of Life to be consumed for the nourishment of our souls. The longer I went, and the more familiar I became with the ancient liturgy, the more real that experience was. I had to wait until my confirmation to receive Communion, and I got to the point where the longing to receive the Lord in the bread and wine was so great, every week I would return to the pew after receiving a blessing instead of communion with tears in my eyes. This wasn’t emotionalism. It was a growing awareness and certainty that when I was in the presence of the consecrated elements, I was truly in the presence of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t symbolic, it was real. It made the phrase “receiving Christ” take on a whole new meaning.
While I had to wait until Easter to receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist, I didn’t have to wait as long for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). I’ve written another blog on the theology behind confession to a priest, so I won’t go into that here, but the Sacrament was a tremendous blessing to me. I went for the first time during the holy season of Advent, as part of preparing my heart for the coming of the Lord.
If it weren’t for the Sacraments, I might not have become Catholic. After all, individual differences in doctrine and theology weren’t points of division in my previous church. It is a welcoming community where believers have in common the basic tenets of Christianity, but there is significant room for differences of opinion on doctrinal issues, which are rarely discussed. The focus is on personal growth and outreach to the community. I would be very welcome to continue attending there, even if I believed that baptism was necessary for salvation. I could believe everything the Catholic Church teaches and still be welcomed. But to know what has been given to me in the Sacraments and then to not receive them, would not just be a personal loss, it would, for me, be a grave sin. It would be a conscious rejection of the precious gifts Jesus was offering me. It was the longing for the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, that drove me into the Church.
I understand now why some Catholics, like the ladies we saw in Italy, go to Mass every day. I feel the same longing to be in the Sanctuary that David describes in the Psalms. Once I’m confirmed, at Easter, I want to receive the Lord in the Sacrament of the Eucharist as often as I can. Sometimes, when I’m driving through town, I’ll deliberately drive past my church just to be near, making the sign of the cross as I pass. I feel a wave of joy, or perhaps a breeze of Grace, every time I do.
In addition to the Mass, I encountered otherworldly holiness in the lives of the Saints. These were humans like me, but who lived with heroic faith and self-denial. The more I read of these saints, the more shallow my own faith seems to me, yet they give me great hope that true holiness is possible in this life.
And the immeasurable gifts of grace our Lord left me in the Sacraments and in His Church, along with the prayers of the Saints, will help me attain it.
“..but you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable Angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in Heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus”
Addendum -teachings of the Church Fathers
A – Baptism (for regeneration and remission of former sins)
“Under the divine dispensation, Jesus Christ our God was conceived by Mary of the seed of David and of the Spirit of God; He was born, and He submitted to baptism, so that by his Passion He might sanctify water.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians 18, c. A.D. 110
“Let none eat or drink of your Eucharist but those baptized in the name of the Lord; for concerning this also did the Lord say: Do not give what is sacred to dogs” the Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles, latter half of the first century.
“…after we have stepped down into the water burdened with sin and defilement, we come up out of it in full fruitage, with reverence in our hearts and the hope of Jesus in our souls.” The Epistle of Barnabas, first century
“it was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but it served as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’.” -Irenaeus in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1:574.
“Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father… and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, then they receive the washing of water. For Christ also said, ‘Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven’…and for this rite we have learned from the apostles…and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed” Justin Martyr, First Apology, AD 148-155
“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, washing away our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life” Tertullian of Carthage, (Baptism 1, c. A.D. 203)
ORIGEN OF ALEXANDRIA “It is not possible to receive forgiveness of sins without baptism” [Exhortation to Martyrdom 30 (A.D. 235)].
see also Scripture: Matt 28:18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38, Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:26-27; Eph 5:25-27; Col 2:11-12; Tit 3:5; 1 Peter 3:18-22
B – Confession, Perseverance
“In church confess your sins, and do not come to your prayer with a guilt conscience. Such is the Way of Life…On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure.” Didache, 4:14,14:1 (c. A.D. 50-90)
“Watch for your life’s sake. Do not let your lamps be quenched, or your loins be unclothed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes [Mt 24:42]. But often shall you come together, seeking the things that are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made perfect in the last time” [Didache 16 (c. A.D. 50)].
“And pray without ceasing on behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. For cannot he that falls arise again, and he that goes astray return? “[Letter to the Ephesians 10 (c. A.D. 110)]. Ignatius of Antioch
“[E]ternal fire was prepared for him who voluntarily departed from God and for all who, without repentance, persevere in apostasy” [fragment in St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 5:26:2 (c. A.D. 153)].
In the prayer to ordain a new bishop: “Father who knowest the hearts of all grant upon this Thy servant whom Thou hast chosen for the episcopate to feed Thy holy flock and serve as Thine high priest, that he may minister blamelessly by night and day, that he may unceasingly behold and appropriate Thy countenance and offer to Thee the gifts of Thy holy Church. And that by the high priestly Spirit he may have authority to forgive sins…” Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 3 (A.D. 215).
“[Regarding confession, some] flee from this work as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to the physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness” (Repentance 10:1 [A.D. 203]).
“In addition to these there is also a seventh, albeit hard and laborious: the remission of sins through penance…when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord.” Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, 2:4 (A.D. 248).
I entreat you, beloved brethren, that each one should confess his own sin, while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession may be received, while the satisfaction and remission made by the priests are pleasing to the Lord [The Lapsed (Treatise 3) 28–29 (A.D. 251)]. St Cyprian of Carthage
“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted.” Basil, Rule Briefly Treated, 288 (A.D. 374).
C. – Eucharist
Ignatius wrote several letters in about AD 110, while he was on his way, under guard, to Rome to be executed.
To the church at Philadelphia he wrote: “Be careful to observe [only] one Eucharist; for there is only one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup of union with his Blood, one altar of sacrifice, as [there is] one bishop with the presbyters and my fellow-servants the deacons.” Elsewhere he writes: “breaking one bread that is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against dying that offers life for all in Jesus Christ.”
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ, which have come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh that suffered for our sins and that the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” Ignatius of Antioch [Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6–7 (c. A.D. 110)].
“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” Ignatius of Antioch [Letter to the Romans 7 (c. A.D. 110)].
“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 that is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ 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 that 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 nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” Justin Martyr [First Apology 66 (c. A.D. 151)].
“If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?” Irenaeus of Lyons [Against Heresies 4:33:2 (c. A.D. 189)].
“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 the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receive the Word of God and become 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 that is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?” [ibid., 5:2:2–3].
“‘Eat my flesh,’ [Jesus] says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children” Clement of Alexandria [Instructor of Children 1:6 (c. A.D. 197)].
“There is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh that actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed [in baptism], that the soul may be cleansed. . . . The flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands [in confirmation], that the soul may be illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds [in the Eucharist] on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul may fatten on its God” Tertullian of Carthage [Resurrection of the Flesh 8 (c. A.D. 210)].
“And she has furnished her table”: That denotes the promised knowledge of the Holy Trinity; it also refers to his honored and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper” Hippolytus of Rome, [fragment from On Proverbs (c. A.D. 217)].