From Tractates on St. John’s Gospel, 26.13 (ca. 420)
How could flesh comprehend that the Lord was giving the name flesh to bread? He calls it ‘flesh,’ something which flesh cannot comprehend. His hearers were horrified at this statement: they said it was too much for them; they thought it impossible. “It is my flesh,” Jesus says, “for the life of the world.”
Believers know the body of Christ, if they do not neglect to be the body of Christ, if they wish to live by the Spirit of Christ. You are a human being; you have both a spirit and a body. I call spirit that which is called the soul: that which makes you human, for you consist of soul and body. And so you have an invisible spirit and a visible body. Tell me which lives from the other: does your spirit live from the body, or your body from your spirit? Every living person can answer that question; and if they cannot answer it, I do not think they are alive. What do they answer? My body, of course, lives by my spirit within me.
If you would then live by the Spirit of Christ, be rooted in the body of Christ. My body does not live by your spirit. My body lives by my spirit, and your body by your spirit. The body of Christ can live only by the Spirit of Christ. That is why the apostle Paul, expounding on this bread, says: “There is one bread, but we, many though we be, are one body.”
O sacrament of goodness! O sign of unity! O bond of charity! Whoever would live knows wherein the source of life resides. Draw near, believe; be embodied, that you may be made to live. Do not flee from intimacy of your fellow Christians: do not be a rotten member that deserves to be cut off. Do not be a deformed member of which the body is ashamed. Be a just, healthy, and sound member of the body of Christ; cleave to the body, and love for God by God.
St. Augustine (354-430) was a theologian and philosopher who served as Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa. He was a voluminous author, whose writings about God’s grace, the Sacraments, and the Church have been profoundly influential in the development of Western Christianity. His Tractates on St. John were completed around 420 and are based on expository sermons he delivered to congregations in Hippo. His feast day is August 26.