In John 6 Jesus says, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." (John 6:53-55). Obviously this was not a favorite verse of my Evangelical pastors over the years, because I never. heard. this. verse. before.
Well, surely there was some misunderstanding. Surely this couldn't be true. I had to find out. Then I heard guests on "The Journey Home" talk about the "early church fathers" and claimed that the writings of these early Christians was further evidence to back up the Catholic belief of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I had never in my years of being in Evangelical churches heard anyone mention anything about writings from the early Christians. I had been in churches who claimed to be as true to what the early church was like as any church could be, but they never mentioned any historical writings or evidence to back up their interpretation of what the early church was like.
For the first time I heard people mentioned such as Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Clement of Rome, Eusebius, Iraneus, Tertullian, and Polycarp. I had never heard these names before, and I had to use the DVR to pause and replay over and over and try to write these names down as best I could. I did my best to decipher how their names must have been spelled so that I could look up this information. Then I wanted to make sure to look these people up from non-Catholic websites, because I wasn't very convinced that I could trust what Catholics would say about these so-called "people", if they really did exist.
Wikipedia became my new best friend. I then came across what these early church fathers had to say about the Eucharist in the early years of the church, some during the age of the Apostles.
Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 6, 110 A.D.:Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has 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 which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, 7, 110 A.D.:
I desire the Bread of God, the heavenly Bread, the Bread of Life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; I wish the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.
Justin Martyr, Apology, I.66-67, 2nd century:Communion in the Body and Blood of ChristIt is allowed to no one else to participate in that food which we call Eucharist except the one who believes that the things taught by us are true, who has been cleansed in the washing unto rebirth and the forgiveness of sins and who is living according to the way Christ handed on to us. For we do not take these things as ordinary bread or ordinary drink. Just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh. Indeed, the Apostles, in the records left by them which are called gospels, handed on that it was commanded to them in this manner: Jesus, having taken bread and given thanks said, ``Do this in memory of me, this is my body.'' Likewise, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, ``This is my blood'', and he gave it to them alone.
Tertullian's The Resurrection of the Dead [8,2] A.D. 208-212:The flesh, then, is washed, so that the soul may be made clean. The flesh is anointed, so that the soul may be dedicated to holiness. The flesh is signed, so that the soul too may be fortified. The flesh is shaded with the imposition of hands, so that the soul too may be illuminated by the Spirit. The flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, so that the soul too may fatten on God. They cannot, then, be separated in their reward, when they are united in their works.There are many other writings to back up the belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Pay particular attention to the dates. I always gave more credence to the earliest writings, because in my mind these had the highest probability of being true since they were the closest to the date of when Christ lived (and therefore had the lowest probability of being tainted by false doctrines).
And once I had settled it in my mind that the evidence proved what the Catholic Church taught about the Eucharist, I let my guard down and let my heart soak it in. Then I, too, began to long for the Eucharist. It became a longing that I couldn't escape. I loved Jesus, and I wanted all that He had to offer.