Early Church Fathers on the Real Presence in the Eucharist

When did the Eucharist become the Flesh and Blood of Christ? When did the Catholic Church come to believe this? According to the Early Church Fathers, it was always true — from the Last Supper to every present Sunday in Mass!

Many Church Fathers discuss the Eucharist, and here are a few examples:

St. Ignatius of Antioch

“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 . . . and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.” Letter to the Romans 7:3 (A.D. 110).

St. Justin Martyr

“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 nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” First Apology 66 (A.D. 151).

St. Irenaeus

“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, and is in fact a member of him?” Against Heresies 5:2 (A.D. 189).


“[T]he flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may be filled with God.” The Resurrection of the Dead 8 (A.D. 210).

St. Hippolytus

“‘[H]is honored and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table….” Commentary on Proverbs (A.D. 217).


“Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna for food; now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: ‘My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.’” Homilies on Numbers 7:2 (A.D. 248).

St. Cyprian of Carthage

“He [Paul] threatens, moreover, the stubborn and forward, and denounces them, saying, ‘Whosoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’ [1 Cor. 11:27]. All these warnings being scorned and contemned— before their sin is expiated, before confession has been made of their crime, before their conscience has been purged by sacrifice and by the hand of the priest, before the offense of an angry and threatening Lord has been appeased, violence is done to his body and blood; and they sin now against their Lord more with their hand and mouth than when they denied their Lord.” The Lapsed 15–16 (A.D. 251).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

“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 19:7 (A.D. 350).

St. Ambrose of Milan

“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! . . . Christ is in that sacrament, because it is the body of Christ.” The Mysteries 9:50, 58 (A.D. 390).

Theodore of Mopsuestia

“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 of his blood he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my blood,’ but, ‘This is my blood’….” Catechetical Homilies 5:1 (A.D. 405).

St. Augustine

“I promised you, who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. . . . 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.” Sermons 227 (A.D. 411).

(Quotes sourced from Catholic Answers at Catholic.com, and their article can be found here.)

Now, let’s look at a timeline to further prove the point. It is believed by scholars that Christ was crucified between 30 and 33 A.D. It is believed that St. Peter was martyred roughly 30 years later in 64 A.D. St. John the Apostle died of natural causes in 99 A.D. The first quote above on the Eucharist from St. Ignatius is a mere ll years after the death of the last Apostle. ONLY 11 YEARS! 

And the quotes from the Church Fathers above extend to St. Augustine some 310 years after St. John’s death. It is clear, and without doubt that the Early Church — during and after the time of the Apostle’s — believed in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. In fact, early Christians were often persecuted for cannibalism, which is why St. Justin offers a very specific defense of the Eucharist in 151 A.D. — only 52 years after St. John the Apostle’s death. 

Need more? Well, the below, for me, was the most convincing evidence.

Pope St. Clement I, the fourth pope, was a contemporary of Sts. Peter and Paul. In fact, he was ordained by St. Peter! And here is what our earliest Church Father says about the Eucharist:

“Eat my flesh, he says, and drink my blood. Such is the suitable food which the Lord ministers, and he offers his flesh and pours forth his blood, and nothing is wanting for the children’s growth. O, amazing mystery! We are enjoined to cast off the old and carnal corruption, as also the old nutriment, receiving in exchange another new regimen, that of Christ, receiving him if we can, to hide him within; and that, enshrining the Savior in our souls, we may correct the affections of our flesh.” 

Clement was Pope from 92 A.D. to 101 A.D. — which is during, and just after, the life of St. John the Apostle. 

The Eucharist is, and always has been, exactly what the Church teaches: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.