We, therefore, are taught, through the slight want of faith shown by the blessed Thomas, that the mystery of the Resurrection is effected upon our earthly bodies, and in Christ as the firstfruits of the race. He was no phantom or ghost, fashioned in human shape, and simulating the features of humanity, nor yet, as others have foolishly surmised, a spiritual body that is compounded of a subtle and ethereal substance different from the flesh. For some attach this meaning to the expression “spiritual body”. For since all our expectation and the significance of our irrefutable faith, after the confession of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, centres in the mystery concerning the flesh, the blessed Evangelist has very pertinently put this saying of Thomas side by side with the summary of what preceded. For observe that Thomas does not desire simply to see the Lord, but looks for the marks of the nails, that is, the wounds upon His Body. For he affirmed that then, indeed, he would believe and agree with the rest that Christ had indeed risen again, and risen again in the flesh. For that which is dead may rightly be said to return to life, and the Resurrection surely was concerned with that which was subject unto death
‘Commentary on the Gospel of John’ 12.1. Commentary on the Gospel according to S. John, S. Cyril Archbishop Of Alexandria Vol. II: S. John IX—XXI. A Library Of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior To The Division Of The East And West. Translated By Members Of The English Church (London: Walter Smith, 1885), 682–3.
The soldiers … pierced his side with a spear and now insulted the dead body. O abominable and accursed purpose! Yet, beloved, do not be confused or despondent. What these men did from a wicked will fought on the side of the truth, since there was a prophecy that spoke concerning this very circumstance: “They shall look on him whom they pierced” [Zech. 12:10]. And not only this, but this deed would become evidence to confirm the faith of those who should afterwards disbelieve, as it was for Thomas those like him. With this too an ineffable mystery was accomplished. For “there came forth water and blood”. Not without purpose or by chance did those fountains spring forth. Rather, it is because the church consists of these two together. And those who have been initiated know this, being regenerated indeed by water and nourished by the blood and the flesh. And so, the mysteries take their beginning. In this way, when you approach that awesome cup, you may so approach as though you were drinking from his very side.
Abbreviated and adapted from ‘Homilies on the Gospel of John’ 85.3. Joel C. Elowsky (ed.), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, Vol. IVb: John 11–21 (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007), 328–9.
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
George Herbert (1593–1633)
We believe that the Word became flesh and that we receive his flesh in the Lord’s Supper. How then can we fail to believe that he really dwells within us? When he became man, he actually clothed himself in our flesh, uniting it to himself forever. In the sacrament of his body he actually gives us his own flesh, which he has united to his divinity. This is why we are all one, because the Father is in Christ, and Christ is in us. He is in us through his flesh and we are in him. With him we form a unity which is in God.
The manner of our indwelling in him through the sacrament of his body and blood is evident from the Lord’s own words: This world will see me no longer but you shall see me. Because I live you shall live also, for I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. If it had been a question of a mere unity of will, why should he have given us this explanation of the steps by which it is achieved? He is in the Father by reason of his divine nature, we are in him by reason of his human birth, and he is in us through the mystery of the sacraments. This, surely, is what he wished us to believe; this is how he wanted us to understand the perfect unity that is achieved through our Mediator, who lives in the Father while we live in him, and who, while living in the Father, lives also in us. This is how we attain to unity with the Father. Christ is in very truth in the Father by his eternal generation; we are in very truth in Christ, and he likewise is in us.
Christ himself bore witness to the reality of this unity when he said: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him. No one will be in Christ unless Christ himself has been in him; Christ will take to himself only the flesh of those who have received his flesh. He had already explained the mystery of this perfect unity when he said: As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so he who eats my flesh will draw life from me. We draw life from his flesh just as he draws life from the Father. Such comparisons aid our understanding, since we can grasp a point more easily when we have an analogy. And the point is that Christ is the wellspring of our life. Since we who are in the flesh have Christ dwelling in us through his flesh, we shall draw life from him in the same way as he draws life from the Father.
Hilary of Poitiers (c. 310–c. 367), On the Trinity, Book 8:13–16. Source: Crossroads Initiative
Just as at one time circumcision, in so far as it had to do with effecting the remission of sins, took the place of baptism, and the Red Sea presented a likeness and figure of the same, so the paschal lamb lamb, whose flesh was eaten by the people and by whose blood the posts of the houses were marked, preceded in the figure of of the sacrament of the body of Christ. …
Finally we eat the flesh of the lamb when by taking His true body in the sacrament we are incorporated with Christ through faith and love. Elsewhere what is eaten is incorporated. Now when the body of Christ is eaten, not what is eaten but he who eats is incorporated with Him whom He eats. On this account Christ wished to be eaten by us, that He might incorporate us with Him. This is the sacrament of the body of Christ and the substance of the sacrament of the body of Christ.
Hugh of Saint Victor on the Sacraments of the Christian Faith, translated by Roy. J. Deferrari (Eugene, OR: 2007), 307.