Let Faith Steady You

From Mystagogical Catecheses 4 (ca. 350)

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it, and said: “Take, eat, this is my body,” and having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, “Take, drink, this is my blood.” Since he himself has declared and said of the bread: “This is my body,” who can dare doubt the truth of his words? And since he has affirmed and said, “This is my blood,” who need ever hesitate, saying that it is not his blood.

Therefore with complete confidence let us all partake of the body and blood of Christ; for in the figure of bread is given to you his body, and in the figure of the wine his blood; for in so partaking of the body and blood of Christ, you will be made of the same body and the same blood with him. This is how we as Christians come to bear Christ in us, because his body and blood are diffused through our members, as the blessed Peter himself said, “we become partakers of the divine nature.”

Once, when discoursing with the Jews, Christ said: “Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” The Jews did not grasp the spiritual significance of what he was saying, and were offended at his words. They went backwards, even supposing that he was inviting them to eat flesh.

Even under the Old Covenant there was a showbread; but this, as it belonged to the Old Covenant, came to an end; but in the New Covenant there is the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation, sanctifying soul and body; for as the bread has respect to our body, so is the Word appropriate to our soul.

Contemplate, therefore, the bread and wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Though sense suggest otherwise, let faith steady you. Judge not this matter from taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that you have been promised the body and blood of Christ.

Having learned these things, let us be fully persuaded that what appears to be bread is not so, that although bread by taste, it is nothing less than the body of Christ. And what seems to be wine is not wine, that although its taste suggests so, it is in fact the blood of Christ. Concerning this, David sang of old, “Bread which strengthens our heart, and oil which gives us a shining countenance.” So I bid you, strengthen your heart, partaking of these things spiritually, and so make the countenance of your soul shine. And thus having the mystery unveiled by a pure conscience, may you “behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,” and proceed “from glory to glory,” in Christ Jesus our Lord.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313-386) was a theologian and liturgist, who served as Bishop of Jerusalem for nearly forty years. He developed the complex liturgical rites of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which influenced Christian worship across the ancient world, as pilgrims from Jerusalem brought home elements of what they had observed. His Mystagogical Catecheses are the culmination of a series of lectures he gave to catechumens early in his episcopate. His feast day is March 18.

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