Barry Newman's Blog

May 23, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part III)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 12:51 am

References in the first few centuries to a Christian rite associated with the elements of a meal and references to meals that Christians shared with each other (continued)

Justin of Caesarea (ca 155 A.D.)- The Eucharist

Justin wrote, “There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe … and gives thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at his hands.”[1]  “This food is called among us “Eucharist” … For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the word of prayer transmitted from Him, and by which our body and our flesh by assimilation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.  For the apostles … have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them: that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do [poieite]in remembrance of me, this is my body[2]; and that after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is my blood; and gave it to them alone.”[3]  The first reference highlights the importance of the giving of thanks while the second seems to have an understanding that the bread and wine become in some sense, the actual body and blood of Jesus.  There is also an emphasis on the nourishment obtained by the assimilation of this bread and wine rather than the necessity of sinners to appeal to the death of Jesus for their salvation.  In his appeal to the apostles Justin sees the “doing in remembrance” as a command. The absence of any explicit reference to the death of Jesus apart from what the “flesh and blood” of Jesus might imply is notable, though in another work he refers explicitly to the suffering of Jesus in connection with references to the Eucharist[4]


Further references could be made to Irenaeus of Lyons (ca 180 A.D.), The Didache (1st, 2nd or 3rd century A.D.), Tertullian of Carthage (ca 200 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (ca 200 A.D.), again Hippolytus of Rome (215 A.D.), Origen of Alexandria (1st half of 3rd century A.D.), Cyprian of Carthage (ca 250 A.D.) Minucius Felix (160-300 A.D.?), Augustine of Hippo (392-398 A.D.), various councils beginning with the Council of Gangra (between 325 and 381 A.D.) and so on. 

[1] Justin, Apology I, 65 in A New Eusebius, op. cit., p. 66

[2] Justin of Caesarea is the first writer outside of the New Testament of which we have record to quote the remembrance words of Jesus, though his quote is not an exact quote. It is not until later in the 4th century that we have records of Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius of Salamis, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom again quoting the words of remembrance.

[3] Justin Apology, I, 66 in A New Eusebius, op.cit., p. 67

[4] See Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, 41, 70 and probably 117 in Falls, T.B., Writings of Saint Justin Martyr, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1948, pp. 209, 210, 261, 262, 328, 329


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