As 2008 comes to a close, let us look at the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch in his letter to the Smyrnaeans, written around 107 A.D, shortly before his martyrdom. Speaking againsts the Docetists, who held the view that Jesus did not have a physical body, but only the illusion of a body, St. Ignatius wrote:
They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that you should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.
As early as 107 A.D., it is clear that Catholic doctrine held the Eucharist to be not a symbol of Jesus' flesh and blood, but his actual flesh and blood. The Eucharist is, as St. Ignatius says, a "gift of God," which we need to "treat...with respect" so that we "might rise again." As we prepare for mass and approach the Eucharist on the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, let us keep these things in mind.
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