And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said,
Take, eat; this is my body.
All Commentaries on Matthew 26:26 Go To Matthew 26
George Leo Haydock
And whilst they were at supper. Jesus Christ proceeds to the institution of the blessed Eucharist, that the truth or reality may succeed to the figure in one and the same banquet; and to impress more deeply upon our minds the remembrance of so singular a favour, his last and best gift to man. He would not institute it at the beginning of his ministry; he first prepares his disciples for the belief of it, by changing water into wine, and by the miraculous multiplication of the loaves.
Whilst they were before they parted: for by St. Luke (xxii. 20.) and 1 Corinthians (xi. 25.) the blessed sacrament was not instituted till after supper.
Jesus took bread, and blessed it. St. Luke and St. Paul say, he gave thanks. This blessing and giving thanks, was not the consecration itself, but went before it. See the Council of Trent, session xiii. chap. i. (Witham)
This is my body. He does not say, this is the figure of my body
but, this is my body. (2d Council of Nice. Act. vi.) Neither does he say in this, or with this is my body, but absolutely this is my body; which plainly implies transubstantiation. (Challoner)
Catholics maintain, after the express words of Scripture, and the universal tradition of the Church, that Christ in the blessed sacrament is corporally and substantially present; but not carnally; not in that gross, natural, and sensible manner, in which our separated brethren misrepresent the Catholic doctrine, as the Capharnaites did of old; (John vi. 61, 62.) who were scandalized with it. If Protestants, in opposition to the primitive Fathers, deny the connection of the sixth chapter of John with the institution, it is from the fear of giving advantage to the doctrine of transubstantiation, says Dr. Clever, Protestant bishop of Bangor.
This is my body. By these words, and his divine power, Christ changed that which before was bread into his own body; not in that visible and bloody manner as the Capharnaites imagined. (John vi.) Yet so, that the elements of bread and wine were truly, really, and substantially changed into the substance of Christ's body and blood. Christ, whose divine power cannot be questioned, could not make use of plainer words than these set down by St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. Paul to the Corinthians: this is my body; this is my blood: and that the bread and wine, at the words of consecration are changed into the body and blood of Christ, has been the constant doctrine and belief of the Catholic Church, in all ages, both in the east and west, both in the Greek and Latin churches; as may be seen in our controvertists, and particularly in the author of the books of the Perpetuity of the Faith. The first and fundamental truths of the Christian faith, by which we profess to believe the mystery of the holy Trinity, i.e. one God and three divine Persons, and of the incarnation, i.e. that the true Son of God was made man, was born, suffered and died upon the cross for our salvation, are no less obscure and mysterious, no less above the reach of human capacity, than this of the real presence: nor are they more clearly expressed in the sacred text. This change the Church hath thought proper to express by the word, transubstantiation: and it is as frivolous to reject this word, and to ask where it is found in the holy Scriptures, as to demand where we read in the Scriptures, the words, trinity, incarnation, consubstantial to the Father
Luther fairly owned that he wanted not an inclination to deny Christ's real presence in the sacrament, by which he should vex and contradict the Pope; but this, said he, is a truth that cannot be denied: The words of the gospel are too clear. He and his followers hold, what is called impanation, or consubstantiation; i.e. that there is really present, both the substance of the bread and wine, and also the substance of Christ's body and blood.
Zuinglius, the Sacrament Arians, and Calvinists deny the real presence; and hold that the word is, (est) importeth no more, than it signifieth, or is a figure of Christ's body; as it hath been lately translated, this represents my body, in a late translation, or rather paraphrase, 1729. I shall only produce here the words and reasoning of Luther: which may deserve the attention of the later reformers.
My body. In St. Luke is added, which is given for you. Granted these words, which is given, may bear this sense, which shall be given, or offered on the cross; yet as it was the true body of Christ, that was to be crucified, so it was the same true body which Christ gave to his apostles, at his last supper, though in a different manner.
The holy Eucharist is not only a sacrament, but also a sacrifice, succeeding to all the sacrifices of the ancient law, which Christ commanded all the priests of the new law to offer up. Luther was forced to own, that divers Fathers, taught this doctrine; as Iren us, Cyprian, Augustine: and in his answer to Henry VIII. of England: The king, says he, brings the testimonies of the Fathers, to prove the sacrifice of the mass, for my part, I care not, if a thousand Augustines, a thousand Cyprians, a thousand Churches, like that of Henry, stand against me. The Centurists of Magdeburg own the same to have been the doctrine of Cyprian, Tertullian, and also of Iren us, in the end of the second age; and that St. Gregory of Nazianzen, in the fourth age, calls it an unbloody sacrifice; incruenti sacrificii. (Witham) This is my body. To show how these words have been interpreted by the primitive Church, we shall here subjoin some few extracts from the works of some of the most eminent writers of the first five centuries. First Century. St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who was a disciple and contemporary with some of the apostles, and died a martyr, at Rome, in a very advanced age, An. 107, speaking of certain heretics of those times, says: "They abstain from the Eucharist and from oblations, because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins. "See epis. genuin. ad Smyrnæos.
He calls the Eucharist the medicine of immortality, the antidote against death, by which we always live in Christ.
In another part he writes: "I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, and for drink, his blood. "Again: "use one Eucharist; for the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ is one, and the cup is one in the unity of his blood. There is one altar, as there is one bishop with the college of the priesthood "Second Century. St. Justin, the philosopher, in an apology for the Christians, which he addressed to the emperor and senate of Rome, about the year 150, says of the blessed Eucharist: "No one is allowed to partake of this food, but he that believes our doctrines are true, and who has been baptized in the laver of regeneration for remission of sins, and lives up to what Christ has taught. For we take not these as common bread, and common drink, but in the same manner as Jesus Christ, our Saviour, being incarnate by the word of God, hath both flesh and blood for our salvation; so we are taught that this food, by which our flesh and blood are nourished, over which thanks have been given by the prayers in his own words, is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus. "Apology ii. in fin. he calls it, Panem eucharistisatum ton arton eucharistethenta, the bread blessed by giving thanks, as he blessed and miraculously multiplied the loaves, eulogesen autous. Third Century. St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who suffered martyrdom in 258, says: "the bread which our Lord delivered to his disciples, was changed not in appearance, but in nature, being made flesh by the Almighty power of the divine word. "Fourth Century. St. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, who was born in the commencement of the 4th century, and died in 386, explaining the mystery of the blessed Eucharist to the newly baptized, says: "Do not look upon the bread and wine as bare and common elements, for they are the body and blood of Christ; as our Lord assures us. Although thy senses suggest this to thee, let faith make thee firm and sure. Judge not of the thing by the taste, but be certain from faith that thou has been honoured with the gift of Christ's body and blood. When he has pronounced and said of the bread, this is my body, who will after this dare to doubt? And when he has assured, and said, this is my blood, who can ever hesitate, saying it in not his blood? He changed water into wine at Cana; and shall we not him worthy of our belief, when he changed wine into blood? Wherefore, let us receive them with an entire belief, as Christ's body and blood; for under the figure of bread, is given to thee his body, and under the figure of wine, his blood; that when thou hast received Christ's body and blood, thou be made one body and blood with him; for so we carry him about in us, his body and blood being distributed through our bodies. "(St. Cyril, catech.)
St. Ambrose, one of the greatest doctors of the Latin Church, and bishop of Milan, who died in 396, proving that the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, is really possible to God, and really takes place in the blessed Eucharist, uses these words: "Will not the words of Christ have power enough to change the species of the elements? Shall not the words of Christ, which could make out of nothing things which did not exist, be able to change that, which already exists, into what it was not? It is not a less exertion of power to give a new nature to things, than to change their natures. Let us propose examples from himself and assert the truth of this mystery from the incarnation. Was it according to the course of nature, that our Lord Jesus Christ should be born of the Virgin Mary? It is evident that it was contrary to the course of nature for a virgin to bring forth. Now this body, which we produce, was born of the virgin. Who dost thou seek for the order of nature in the body of Christ, when our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. (St. Ambrose, lib. de initiandis, chap. ix.) Fifth Century. St. Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople, who died in 407, does not speak less clearly on this subject. "He "(i.e. Jesus Christ,) says the holy doctor, hom. l. in Matt. "has given us himself to eat, and has set himself in the place of a victim sacrificed for us. "And in hom. lxxxiii.: "How many now say they could wish to see his form, his garments; you wish to see his garments, but he gives you himself not only to be seen, but to be touched, to be eaten, to be received within you. Than what beam of the sun ought not that hand to be purer, which divides this flesh! That mouth, which is filled with this spiritual fire! That tongue, which is purpled with this adorable blood! The angels beholding it tremble, and dare not look thereon through awe and fear, on account of the rays, which dart from that, wherewith we are nourished, with which we are mingled, being made one body, one flesh with Christ. What shepherd ever fed his sheep with his own limbs? Nay, many mothers turn over their children to mercenary nurses; whereas he feeds us with his own blood! "
On another occasion, to inspire us with a dread of profaning the sacred body of Christ, he says: "When you see Him exposed before you, say to yourself: this body was pierced with nails; this body which was scourged, death did not destroy; this body was nailed to a cross, at which spectacle the sun withdrew his rays; this body the Magi venerated. "
"There is as much difference between the loaves of proposition and the body of Christ, as between a shadow and a body, between a picture and the reality. "Thus St. Jerome upon the epistle to Titus, chap. i. See more authorities in the notes on St. Mark's Gospel, chap. xiv, ver. 22, on the real presence, and also in the following verses and alibi passim.