FROM JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST BY REV. FERREOL GIRARDEY, C.Ss.R.
THE EARLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH ON THE REAL PRESENCE
Every fair-minded person who reads the writings of the most ancient Fathers of the Church, will be convinced that the Christians of the first two centuries had a clear and firm faith in the Real Presence of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
TESTIMONY OF ST. IGNATIUS, BISHOP OF ANTIOCH.
The earliest Father of the Church who mentions the Holy Eucharist in his writings is St. Ignatius, a disciple of the apostles. A very ancient tradition informs us that Ignatius was a little child in the life-time of our divine Savior. Now we know that when, on a certain occasion the apostles were driving away the children crowding around our Lord, Jesus took up one of them in his arms, saying: " Suffer little children to come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen I say unto you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it" (Mark 10: 13-16) ; that is, if any one wished to enter heaven, he should become in humility, simplicity and innocence, like the little child He was holding in His arms. This little child, tradition tells us, afterwards became St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, whom the Emperor Trajan sent under guard to Rome to be there exposed to and devoured by wild beasts, out of hatred to the Christian religion and for the amusement of the Romans. On his long journey to Rome, St. Ignatius wrote several letters to exhort and encourage the Christians of various cities, and also one to the Christians in Rome, expressing his great desire of dying for Christ and beseeching them not to take any steps to prevent his martyrdom, which he declares to be his glory and happiness. In his letter to the Christians of Smyrna, where St. Polycarp, another disciple of the apostles, was bishop, St. Ignatius warns them against certain heretics of those days who would not believe in the Holy Eucharist, and says: " These heretics do not admit the Eucharist, because they do not acknowledge that the Eucharist is the very flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins." No words can express more clearly the Real Presence, for in these few words St. Ignatius tells us that in the Eucharist there is really and truly the very flesh or body of Jesus Christ which suffered and died for our sins.