I am a convert to the Catholic Faith. In my evangelical days I read scripture passages such as John chapters 6 and concluded that they were symbolic. This view is still predominant in most Protestant denominations. There came a point when I had to take a deep dive into history to see if the early church was indeed the Catholic Church.
This journey is one that changed my life. By studying the writings of the early Church Fathers one can see distinctly Catholic beliefs. Their teaching on what the Eucharist is was one that was an eye opener for me. Those in the earliest days of Christendom saw it as the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and not just a spiritual reality.
1. “Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of his blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery.” — St Ignatius of Antioch
2. 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 nourished, is the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus Christ. — St. Justin Martyr.
3. “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 . . . receiving the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist which is the body and blood of Christ.” — St. Irenaeus.
4. “He himself warns us, saying, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.” Therefore do we ask that our bread, which is Christ, be given to us daily, so that we who abide and live in Christ may not withdraw from His sanctification and from His Body.” — St. Cyprian of Carthage
5. “After having spoken thus ‘This is My body . . . This is My blood’, the Lord rose up from the place where he had made the Passover and had given his body as food and his blood as drink, and he went with his disciples to the place where he was to be arrested. But he ate of his own body and drank of his own blood, while he was pondering on the dead. With his own hands the Lord presented his own body to be eaten, and before he was crucified he gave his blood as drink.” — Aaphrates the Persian Sage
6. “For just as 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.” — St. Cyril of Jerusalem
7. “To communicate each day and to partake of the holy body and blood of Christ is good and beneficial; for he says quite plainly: “He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” Who can doubt that to share continually in life is the same thing as having life abundantly? We ourselves communicate four times each week . . . and on other days if there is a commemoration of any saint.” — St. Basil The Great
8. “The bread again is at first common bread; but when the mystery sanctifies it, it is called and actually becomes the Body of Christ. So too the mystical oil, so too the wine; if they are things of little worth before the blessing, after their sanctification by the Spirit each of them has its own superior operation. This same power of the word also makes the priest venerable and honorable, separated from the generality of men by the new blessing bestowed upon him.” — St. Gregory of Nyssa
9. “We see that the Savior took in his hands, as it is in the Gospel, when he was reclining at the Supper; and he took this, and giving thanks, he said: “This is really me.” And he gave to his disciples and said: “This is really me.” And we see that it is not equal nor similar, not to the incarnate image, not to the invisible divinity, not to the outline of his limbs. For It is round of shape, and devoid of feeling. As to Its power, he means to say even of Its grace, “This is really me”; and none disbelieves his word. For anyone who does not believe the truth in what he says is deprived of grace and of Savior.” — St. Epiphanius
10. “After the type had been fulfilled by the passover celebration and he had eaten the flesh of the lamb with his Apostles, he takes bread which strengthens the heart of man, and goes on to the true sacrament of the passover, so that just as Melchizedech, the priest of the Most High God, in prefiguring him, made bread and wine an offering, he too makes himself manifest in the reality of his own body and blood.” – St. Jerome