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The Early Church Fathers on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. Prudentius, (Aurelius Prudentius Clemens), (A.D. 348-c.413)
    Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417)
    St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. Monica, St. Augustine of Hippo's mother
    St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433)
    Sulpicius Severus, (A.D. c.363-c.425)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)
    St. Nilus the Elder, (c. A.D. 385 - 430))
    Zacchaeus, (unknown - A.D. c.430)
    St. Isidore of Pelusium, (unknown - A.D. 440)
    St. Proclus, (unknown-A.D. 447)
    St. Prosper of Aquitain, (A.D. c.390-c.463)
    Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458)
    Victor Vitensis, (c.430-490)
    Arnobius Junior, (flourished in the 5th century, A.D. c.460)
    St. Avitus, (Alcimus Ecdicius), (A.D. c.470-525)
    Gelasius of Cyzicus, (unknown- A.D. c.492)
    Council of Tours, (A.D. 461, 567, and 755)
Prudentius, (Aurelius Prudentius Clemens), (A.D. 348-c.413), Roman Christian poet, born in the Roman province of Tarraconensis, now Northern Spain. He probably died in Spain, as well. The hymn Salvete, flores Martyrum, is by this writer.

"Thus may we venerate her (St. Eulalia's) bones, and the altar that is placed over them; she looks down upon them, placed as they are under the feet of God."

Carm. in S. Eulal. Ruinart. Act. Martyr, p. 500.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 481

Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417) was pope from (A.D. 401 to 417), he lost no opportunity in maintaining and extending the authority of the Roman See as the ultimate resort for the settlement of all disputes.

"As is becoming and chaste and praiseworthy, the Church should by every means hold, that priests and levites have no commerce with their wives, seeing that they are engaged in the necessary duties of the daily ministry. For it is written, "Be holy, because I the Lord your God am holy."

[Having quoted the example of the priests of the old law, he continues:]

How much more, from the day of their ordination, ought those priests and levites to preserve chastity, whose priesthood or ministry is not by (carnal) succession, and over whom a day passes not, wherein they are not engaged either in the divine sacrifices, or in the duty of baptizing. For if Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Abstain for a time that you may give yourselves to prayer", and enjoin this in fact upon laymen, how much more ought priests, — whose office it is to perpetually pray and sacrifice, — to refrain from such connection."

Ep. ii. ad Victr. n. 12, Galland. t. viii. p. 549.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 480

St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

This wholly redeemed city, the assembly and society of the saints, is offered to God as a universal sacrifice by the high priest who in the form of a slave went so far as to offer himself for us in his Passion, to make us the Body of so great a head. . . . Such is the sacrifice of Christians: "we who are many are one Body in Christ" The Church continues to reproduce this sacrifice in the sacrament of the altar so well-known to believers wherein it is evident to them that in what she offers she herself is offered.

St. Augustine, De civ Dei, 10,6:PL 41,283
Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC 1372

"That true mediator . . . whereas in the form of God He receives sacrifice together with the Father, with whom also He is one God, yet, in the form of a servant, He chose rather to be, than to receive, sacrifice, lest, even on this account, any one might think that sacrifice was to be offered to any creature. For this cause also He is a priest, Himself the offerer, Himself also the oblation. Of which thing He wished the sacrifice of the Church to be a daily sacrament: which (Church), whereas she is the body of Him who is the head, learns to offer herself through Him. Of this true sacrifice the ancient sacrifices of the saints were manifold and various signs, seeing that this one sacrifice was typified by many sacrifices. ... To this chiefest and true sacrifice all false sacrifices have given way."

T. vii. L. x. c. xx. col. 410-11.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 473-474

St. Monica: St. Augustine of Hippo's mother, before her death, to her son, St. Augustine and his brother.

Put this body anywhere! Don't trouble yourselves about it! I simply ask you to remember me at the Lord's altar wherever you are.

Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC 1372

St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433), ordained a deacon by St. John Chrysostom and a priest in Marseilles, a Christian theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. He is known both as one of the "Scythian monks" and as one of the "Desert Fathers". His opinions on grace being in opposition somewhat to those of St. Augustine and the Church, caused him to be opposed by St. Prosper.

"The lifting up of my hands as evening sacrifice." (Psalm 140:2) In which place he may also be understood to speak of that true evening sacrifice, which was delivered in the evening, by our Lord and Saviour, to the Apostles when at supper, when He instituted the sacred and holy mysteries of the Church."

L. iii. c. iii. p. 24, t. vii. Bibl. Maxim.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 494

Sulpicius Severus, (A.D. c.363-c.425), a Christian writer and native of Aquitania. He is known for his chronicle of sacred history, as well as his biography of Saint Martin of Tours.

"Arborius testifies that he had seen Martin's (of Tours) hand, whilst offering sacrifice, covered in some way with the most precious gems, and shining with a purple light, and had heard the noise of the gems, as they touched each other when he moved his right hand."

Dial. iii. n. x. Galland. t. viii. p. 417.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 479

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

"The table that held the loaves of proposition signifies that unbloody sacrifice, by which we are hallowed when we eat that bread which is from Heaven, that is, Christ."

lb. I. xiii. p. 457.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 484

"Not only has the Gospel been preached throughout the Roman empire, but its light has also furthermore penetrated into the nations of barbarians. And hence there are everywhere churches, pastors and teachers, catechumens and hierophants — (a priest in ancient Greece), and divine altars, and the Lamb is intellectually sacrificed by holy priests, even amongst Indians and Ethiopians: And this is what was clearly expressed by the voice of another prophet, "And in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice.'

T. iii. Comm. in Sophon. p. 617.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 486

St. Nilus the Elder, (c. A.D. 385 - c. 430) (also known as Nilus of Sinai, Neilos, Nilus of Ancyra), Syrian, was one of the many disciples and fervent students of St. John Chrysostom; an eyewitness of the martyrdom of Theodotus.

"That marvellous priest John (St. Chrysostom), that luminary of the great church of Byzantium, yea rather of the whole world, being keen-sighted, often saw the house of the Lord not even deprived or left, for an hour even, by the guardianship of angels, and this especially during the time of the divine and unbloody sacrifice, a circumstance which he, filled with awe and gladness, narrated privately to his true spiritual friends. For, he says, when the priest begins to make the holy oblation, many of the blessed powers suddenly descend from Heaven, clothed in bright robes, with their feet bare, with their eyes intent, but with their faces cast down; moving round the altar with reverence and quietness and silence, they stand around until the completion of the dread mystery; then scattering themselves throughout the venerable house (of God), each of them here and there cooperating, aiding, and giving strength to the bishops and priests and to all the deacons present, who are administering the body and the precious blood. These things do I write, that knowing the fearful nature of the divine liturgy, you be neither yourselves careless, heedless of the divine fear, nor allow others to talk or whisper during the oblation."

Lib. ii. Epist. ccxciv. p. 266.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 482

Zacchaeus, (unknown - A.D. c.430), name of a fabricated writer under which he defends Christianity. His real name seems to be Evagrius, who flourished in the late 4th century.

"Though the Jews immolated victims after the manner of the Gentiles, yet were they taught to offer that to God which they had previously been in the habit of rendering to idols. ... At length they hear the prophet, "To what purpose do you offer me the multitude of your sacrifices, saith the Lord," (Isaiah 1:11-15) That is, not by these piacular sacrifices are your crimes to be purged away: but he prophetically points out the nature of that purification which was to be in our baptism, saying, "Wash you, be clean." (Isaiah 1:16); that is, when the time of that visitation shall arrive, cleave to the sacraments of the spiritual laver. . . . The change, therefore, announced in such terms, was by Christ effected by an alteration for the better, and instead of worthless victims of animals and birds, the heavenly gift of the faithful is celebrated by a pure oblation, and we are defended against all the snares of the assaulting enemy, by having the spiritual sacrifice commingled with us, and that declaration of God the Father is accomplished in Him who took upon Himself our manhood, "Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech."

Cons. Zach. et Apoll. l. ii. c. vii. Galland, t. ix. pp. 227-8.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 481

St. Isidore of Pelusium, (unknown - A.D. 440), a disciple of St. John Chrysostom, he was born in Egypt to a prominent Alexandrian family. He became an ascetic, and moved to a mountain near the city of Pelusium, in the tradition of the Desert Fathers; known to us for his letters, written to Cyril of Alexandria, Theodosius II, and a host of others. His letters display great judgment, precision, and learning.

"If thou wouldst truly offer a gift to God, do not despise the mediator of the gifts, whose ministering hands God, in His love for man, has vouchsafed to make use of; for a priest, even though he be, as you say, defiled by a kind of heedless way of living, of which he shall abide the righteous judgment, is still an angel of the Almighty, both by the hierophancy of the divine initiation (or, perfection), and by his ministering to the salvation of many."

L. i. Ep. cccxlix. p. 92.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 480

St. Proclus, (unknown-A.D. 447), a friend and disciple of St. John Chrysostom, he was placed on the patriarchal chair of Constantinople in 434. He appears to have been wise, moderate, and conciliatory, desirous, while strictly adhering to Orthodoxy himself, to win over those who differed from him by persuasion rather than force. He is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox church.

"And indeed of old, my beloved, the mystery of the Passover was by (the ordinance) of the law mystically celebrated in Egypt; it was symbolically signified by means of the immolation of the Lamb; but now, by the (ordinance of) the Gospel, we spiritually celebrate the resurrection -- festival of the passover. There, indeed, a sheep from the flock was sacrificed, but here Christ Himself, the Lamb of God, is offered up: "there a sheep from the fold, but here, instead of a sheep, that good shepherd who laid down His own life for the sheep: there a sign of the sprinkled blood of an irrational creature, was the safeguard of a whole people; but here Christ's precious blood is poured out for the salvation of the world; that we may receive the remission of our sins. There the first-born of the Egyptians were slain, but here the many-born brood of sins are cleansed away by means of confession. There Pharaoh, with his dread army, were sunk in the sea; here the spiritual Pharaoh, with all his power, is drowned by means of baptism. . . . The Jews, after passing through the Red Sea, eat the manna in the desert, but now they who come forth from the pool (of baptism) eat that bread which came down from Heaven: for it is His voice that says: "I am that bread which came down from Heaven."

Orat. xiv. In sanctum Pascha, pp. 663-64, T. ix. Gallandii.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 494-495

St. Prosper of Aquitain, (A.D.c.390- c.463), a Christian writer and disciple of St. Augustine, as well as the friend and secretary of Pope Leo I. He was the first continuator of Jerome's Universal Chronicle. Prosper was a layman, but he threw himself with ardour into the religious controversies of his day, defending Augustine and propagating orthodoxy.

"As you should keep in mind what you offer, and to whom you offer to, so you should keep in mind where you are offering.

For, without the Catholic Church there is no place for the true sacrifice."

Sentent. ex op. S. Aug. n. xv. col. 545.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 482

Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458), Greek; an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria (A.D. 423-457). He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms. His friendship for Nestorius embroiled him, for a time, with his great contemporary, St. Cyril of Alexandria.

"For Melchisedech was a priest of the Most High. . . . For he was a type of the Lord's priesthood for which cause he in return gave loaves and wine to Abraham, as having been, perhaps, accustomed to offer these to the God of all; for it was befitting that even in this the type should be set forth."

T. i. Quaest. lxiv. in Genes, p. 77.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 488

Victor Vitensis, (c.430-490), also known as Victor of Vite, an African bishop of the province of Byzacena (called Vitensis from his See of Vita); he wrote "The history of persecution of the African province, and Hunirici Geiserici times of the kings of the Vandals". This is mainly a contemporary narrative of the cruelties practised against the orthodox Christians of Northern Africa by the Arian Vandals.

Describing the Vandalic persecution, he says:

"No place was allowed us anywhere in our grief for praying, or for immolating, so that the prophecy was manifestly fulfilled, "Neither is there, at this time, prince, nor prophet, nor leader, nor place for sacrificing to Thy name." (Daniel 3:38)

De Pers. Afric. L. i. jp. 677, T. viii. Bibl. Maxim.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 496-497

Arnobius Junior, (flourished in the 5th century, A.D. c.460), also known as Arnobius the Younger, Christian priest or bishop in Gaul, author of a mystical and allegorical commentary on the Psalms, first published by Erasmus in 1522, and by him attributed to the elder Arnobius.

"He, through the sacrament of bread and wine, was made a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech, who alone amongst the priests offered up bread and wine, when Abraham returned victorious from battle."

Comm. in Psalm cix.p. 301, t. viii. Bibl. Maxim.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 494

St. Avitus, (Alcimus Ecdicius), (A.D. c.470-525), a Latin poet and Anti-Arian archbishop of Vienne in Gaul, born of a prominent Gallo-Roman senatorial family

"There is a custom, in the churches of the principal cities in those districts, to offer up at the beginning of the Mass a supplication mingled with the divine praise: a supplication which is answered by the united voices of the people with so much devotion and earnestness, that they believe, and not without reason, that every petition of the sacrifice that follows will be acceptable when preceded by this devotional service."

De Pers. Afric. L. i. p. 667, T. x. Galland.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 497

Gelasius of Cyzicus, (unknown- A.D. c.492), son of a priest of Cyzicus, he was an ecclesiastical writer who wrote in the Roman province of Bithynia in Asia Minor about A.D. 475 to prove against the Eutychians, that the Nicene Fathers did not teach Monophysitism.

"Again also here, at this table let us not abjectly attend to the bread and to the chalice which lie before us; but, lifting up our mind, let us with faith understand, that there lies upon that sacred table the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world, sacrificed in an unbloody manner by the priests, and veritably receiving His precious body and blood, believe that these are the symbols of our resurrection. For, for this cause we receive not much, but a little, that we may know that we (partake) not for repletion, but for sanctification."

Hist. Concil. Nicaen. Labbe, t. ii. p. 234.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 373-374

Council of Tours, (A.D. 461, 567, and 755), one of three councils held in Tours, France during the patristic age, in A.D. 461, 567 and 755.

"Whereas, then, continency is prescribed to a layman, that, giving himself wholly to prayer and petitioning God, he may be heard, how much more is it enjoined to priests, or levites, who ought to be at every moment, secure in cleanness and purity, prepared; lest they be compelled either to offer sacrifice, or to baptize, if the necessity of the time require it?"

Can. i. col. 1050, Labb. t. iv.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 468



Our Savior, in leaving to us His Body and Blood, under two distinct species or kinds, instituted not only a sacrament, but also the sacrifice; the commemorative sacrifice, distinctly showing His passion and death until He comes in glory. As the sacrifice of the cross was performed by a distinct effusion of His blood, so is that sacrifice is commemorated and re-presented on the altars in Catholic parishes symbolically. The separate acts of the priest [consecrating the leavened wheat bread into His Body, then subsequently consecrating the grape wine into His Precious Blood] represent death because if you separate your body from your blood, you will die. The actions of the priest at Mass bring forth the reality of Calvary. Jesus, therefore, is here given not only to us, but for us; and the Church is thereby enriched with a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice. We say propitiatory because it re-presents, in a lively manner, the passion and death of our Lord, and is peculiarly pleasing to our eternal Father, and thus more effectually applies to us the all-sufficient merits of the sacrifice of the cross.



The Church's Scriptures that support the [Eucharist or the Mass]:

The Mass foretold in the Old Testament:

10 Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you," Says the Lord of hosts, "Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations," Says the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 1:10-11

Matthew's Account of the Last Supper:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

Matthew 26:26-29

Mark's Account of the Last Supper:

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

Mark 14:22-25

Luke's Account of the Last Supper:

13 And they went, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover. 14 And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:13-20

St. Paul proclaims and catechizes on the Mass.

16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?


1 Corinthians 10:16-21

Abuses of the Lord's Supper

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you meet together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

1 Corinthians 11:17-22

St. Paul proclaims and catechizes on the Mass.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.


1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Partaking of the Lord's Supper unworthily.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.


1 Corinthians 11:27-30

If the Eucharist were just a symbol, why does Paul say, "That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." If the Eucharist is just a symbol it shouldn't have effected them.

From the author of Hebrews.

1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4 And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.

Hebrews 5:1-4


10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.

Hebrews 13:10-12


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