The Fathers of the Church on living forever by Eating the Flesh and Drinking the Blood of Jesus Christ

December 1, 2021 • 8 min

From The Catena Aurea, in file "Catena Aurea - John", page 242
By St. Thomas Aquinas and the Fathers of the Church

55. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

56. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

57. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

58. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

59. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.

Bede. He had said above, Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life: and now to shew the great difference between bodily meat and drink, and the spiritual mystery of His body and blood, He adds, For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.

Chrys. i. e. this is no enigma, or parable, but ye must really eat the body of Christ; or He means to say that the true meat was He who saved the soul.

Aug. Or thus: Whereas men desire meat and drink to satisfy hunger and thirst, this effect is only really produced by that meat and drink, which makes the receivers of it immortal and incorruptible; i. e. the society of Saints, where is peace and unity, full and perfect.

On which account our Lord has chosen for the types of His body and blood, things which become one out of many. Bread is a quantity of grains united into one mass, wine a quantity of grapes squeezed together.

Then He explains what it is to eat His body and drink His blood: He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. So then to partake of that meat and that drink, is to dwell in Christ and Christ in thee.

He that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, neither eateth His flesh, nor drinketh His blood: but rather eateth and drinketh the sacrament of it to his own damnation.

Chrys. Or, having given a promise of eternal life to those that eat Him, He says this to confirm it: He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.

Aug. As for those, as indeed there are many, who either eat that flesh and drink that blood hypocritically, or, who having eaten, become apostates, do they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them? Nay, but there is a certain mode of eating that flesh, and drinking that blood, in the which he that eateth and drinketh, dwelleth in Christ, and Christ in him.

Aug. That is to say, such an one eateth the body and drinketh the blood of Christnot in the sacramental sense, but in reality.

Chrys. And because I live, it is manifest that he will live also: As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, even so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. As if He said, As the Father liveth, so do I live; adding, lest you should think Him unbegotten, By the Father, meaning that He has His source in the Father. He that eateth Me, even he shall live by me; the life here meant is not life simply, but the justified life: for even unbelievers live, who never eat of that flesh at all. Nor is it of the general resurrection He speaks, (for all will rise again,) but of the resurrection to glory, and reward.

Aug. He saith not, As I eat the Father, and live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.

For the Son does not grow better by partaking of the Father, as we do by partaking of the Son, i. e. of His one body and blood, which this eating and drinking signifies.

So that His saying, I live by the Father, because He is from Him, must not be understood as detracting from His equality.

Nor do the words, Even he that eateth Me, the same shall live by Me, give us the equality that He has. He does not equalize, but only mediates between God and man.

If, however, we understand the words, I live by the Father, in the sense of those below, My Father is greater than I, then it is as if He said, That I live by the Father, i. e. refer my life to Him, as my superior, my humiliation in my incarnation is the cause; but He who lives by Me, lives by Me by virtue of partaking of My flesh.

Hilary. Of the truth then of the body and blood of Christ, no room for doubting remain : for, by the declaration of our Lord Himself, and by the teaching of our own faith, the flesh is really flesh, and the blood really blood.

This then is our principle of life. While we are in the flesh, Christ dwelleth in us by His flesh. And we shall live by Him, according as He liveth. If then we live naturally by partaking of Him according to the flesh, He also liveth naturally by the indwelling of the Father according to the Spirit. His birth did not give Him an alien or different nature from the Father.

Aug. That we who cannot obtain eternal life of ourselves, might live by the eating that bread, He descended from heaven: This is the bread which cometh down from heaven.

Hilary. He calls Himself the bread, because He is the origin of His own body. And lest it should be thought that the virtue and nature of the Word had given way to the flesh, He calls the bread His flesh, that, inasmuch as the bread came down from heaven, it might be seen that His body was not of human conception, but a heavenly body. To say that the bread is His own, is to declare that the Word assumed His body Himself.

Theophyl. For we do not eat God simply, God being impalpable and incorporeal; nor again, the flesh of man simply, which would not profit us. But God having taken flesh into union with Himself, that flesh is quickening. Not that it has changed its own for the Divine nature; but, just as heated iron remains iron, with the action of the heat in it; so our Lord’s flesh is quickening, as being the flesh of the Word of God.

Bede. And to shew the wide interval between the shadow and the light, the type and the reality, He adds, Not an your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

Aug. The death here meant is death eternal. For even those who eat Christ are subject to natural death; but they live for ever, because Christ is everlasting life.

Chrys. For if it was possible without harvest or fruit of the earth, or any such thing, to preserve the lives of the Israelites of old for forty years, much more will He be able to do this with that spiritual food, of which the manna is the type. He knew how precious a thing life was in men’s eyes, and therefore repeats His promise of life often; just as the Old Testament had done; only that it only offered length of life, He life without end. This promise was an abolition of that sentence of death, which sin had brought upon us. These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum; where many displays of His power took place. He taught in the synagogue and in the temple, with the view of attracting the multitude, and as a sign that He was not acting in opposition to the Father.

Bede. Mystically, Capernaum, which means beautiful town, stands for the world: the synagogue, for the Jewish people. The meaning is, that our Lord hath, by the mystery of the incarnation, manifested Himself to the world, and also taught the Jewish people His doctrines.

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