“I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, how that the Lord Jesus, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, &c.” (1 Corinthians 11:23)
1. Even of itself the teaching of the Blessed Paul is sufficient to give you a full assurance concerning those Divine Mysteries, of which having been deemed worthy, ye are become of the same body and blood with Christ. For you have just heard him say distinctly that our Lord Jesus Christ in the night in which He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks He brake it, and gave to His disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is My Body”; and having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “Take, drink, this is My Blood.” Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, “This is My Body,” who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, “This is My Blood,” who shall ever hesitate, saying that it is not His blood?
2. He once in Cana of Galilee turned the water into wine, akin to blood, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? When called to a bodily marriage, He miraculously wrought that wonderful work; and on the children of the bride-chamber, shall He not much rather be acknowledged to have bestowed the fruition of His Body and Blood?
3. Wherefore with full assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ mayest be made of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature.
4. Christ on a certain occasion discoursing with the Jews said, “Except ye eat My flesh and drink My blood, ye have no life in you.” They not having heard His saying in a spiritual sense were offended, and went back, supposing that He was inviting them to eat flesh.
5. In the Old Testament also there was shew-bread; but this, as it belonged to the Old Testament, has come to an end; but in the New Testament there is Bread of heaven and a Cup of salvation, sanctifying soul and body; for as the Bread corresponds to our body, so is the Word appropriate to our soul.
6. Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to thee, yet let faith establish thee. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouchsafed to thee.
7. Also the blessed David shall advise thee the meaning of this, saying, “Thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of them that afflict me.” What he says, is to this effect: Before Thy coming, the evil spirits prepared a table for men, polluted and defiled and full of devilish influence; but since Thy coming, O Lord, Thou hast prepared a table before me. When the man says to God, Thou hast prepared before me a table, what other does he indicate but that mystical and spiritual Table, which God hath prepared for us over against— that is, contrary and in opposition to— the evil spirits? And very truly; for that had communion with devils, but this, with God.
“Thou hast anointed my head with oil.” With oil He anointed thine head upon thy forehead, for the seal which thou hast of God; that thou mayest be made the engraving of the signet, Holiness unto God.
“And thy cup intoxicateth me, as very strong.” Thou seest that cup here spoken of, which Jesus took in His hands, and gave thanks, and said, “This is My blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
8. Therefore Solomon also, hinting at this grace, says in Ecclesiastes, “Come hither, eat thy bread with joy (that is, the spiritual bread; Come hither, he calls with the call to salvation and blessing), and drink thy wine with a merry heart (that is, the spiritual wine); and let oil be poured out upon thy head (thou seest he alludes even to the mystic Chrism); and let thy garments be always white,” for the Lord is well pleased with thy works (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8); for before thou camest to Baptism, thy works were vanity of vanities. But now, having put off thy old garments, and put on those which are spiritually white, thou must be continually robed in white: of course we mean not this, that thou art always to wear white raiment; but thou must be clad in the garments that are truly white and shining and spiritual, that thou mayest say with the blessed Esaias, “My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with a garment of salvation, and put a robe of gladness around me.”
9. Having learnt these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ; and that of this David sung of old, saying, “And bread strengtheneth man’s heart, to make his face to shine with oil,” “strengthen thou thine heart,” by partaking thereof as spiritual, and “make the face of thy soul to shine. And so having it unveiled with a pure conscience, mayest thou reflect as a mirror the glory of the Lord, and proceed from glory to glory, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be honour, and might, and glory, for ever and ever. + Amen.
(St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Lecture XX: “On the Mysteries,” Pars II: “On The Body and Blood of Christ”; The Protocatechesis. The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection. Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition; Locations 547128-547170.)