The mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist becomes the body of Christ, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported.
So how can anyone affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which flesh is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?
St Paul declares, “we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Eph. 5:30). He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh (Luke 24:39).
Rather, he refers to that dispensation by which the Lord became an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones—that flesh which is nourished by the cup which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread which is His body.
A cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season; a corn of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things.
Then, through the wisdom of God, it serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ.
So also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time, the Word of God granting them resurrection to the glory of God, even the Father, who freely gives to this mortal immortality, and to this corruptible incorruption (1 Cor. 15:53).
For the strength of God is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:3), in order that we may never become puffed up, as if we had life from ourselves, and exalted against God, our minds becoming ungrateful;
that, learning by experience, we might possess eternal duration from the excelling power of this Being, not from our own nature;
that we may neither undervalue that glory which surrounds God as He is, nor be ignorant of our own nature;
that we may know what God can effect, and what benefits man receives, and thus never wander from the true comprehension of things as they are, that is, both with regard to God and with regard to man.
And might it not be the case, perhaps, as I have already observed, that for this purpose God permitted our resolution into the common dust of mortality, that we, being instructed by every mode, may be accurate in all things for the future, being ignorant neither of God nor of ourselves?
Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses, 5, 2, 3.
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