Today’s saint was born in Asia Minor and was a third generation Christian. He studied in Rome and went to France as a missionary, becoming the Bishop of Lyons where he gave his life in witness to the faith that had been handed down to him from the Apostles. In his great work entitled “Adversus Haereses” or “Against the Heresies”, St. Irenaeus explained what Christians of all times have believed about the Eucharist. As we reflect on the following words of his, we pray that all Christians may recognize in the Eucharist the living presence of Christ. May St. Irenaeus intercede with us for the people of Europe to whom he brought the faith.
Directing his disciples to offer God the first-fruits of his own creation—not because he stood in need of them, but that they themselves might be neither unfruitful nor ungrateful—he took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks, and said, “This is My Body” (Matthew 26:26). And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his Blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant. This the Church has received from the Apostles, and offers now to God throughout all the world….
Then how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the Body of the Lord and with his Blood, goes to corruption and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to him his own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.