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Early Christians Were Healed While Taking Communion

10 months ago · By J.D. King · 3 Min Read

Early Christians encountered healing through the act of communion (or the Eucharist). Church leaders often highlighted “the miraculous qualities of the Eucharist in which Christ became fully present in the consecrated communion host.”[1] As the sick partook of the elements, they believed that they were more than mere emblems. In the bread and the wine, they were encountering Jesus’ healing presence.

Ignatius of Antioch (35–98) believed that the Eucharist “exerts a healing action.”[2] He writes that believers should “gather in one faith … in order to obey the bishop and the presbytery, breaking one bread which is a remedy … preventing death and giving life in Jesus forever.”[3] Calling this “the medicine of immortality,"[4] Ignatius undoubtedly had more than mere symbolism in mind.

One of the communion prayers contained in the Didache (100AD), affirmed, “You have bestowed a spiritual food and drink that lead to eternal life through Jesus, your servant. … Lord remember your church and deliver it from all evil.”[5] This was derived from an early Jewish blessing where God was “asked to deliver his people from their enemies and afflictions.”[6]

Although there “are no accounts in the pre-Nicene literature of healing through receiving the Eucharist,”[7] instances are numerous in later works. In one account, Caesarius (468-542), the bishop of Arles declared, “As often as any sickness comes upon any one, let him who is sick receive the Body and Blood of Christ.”[8]

This practice is also demonstrated in the fourth century Byzantine rite, the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. One of the prayers declares, “O Lord Jesus Christ our God: let Your holy body be my eternal life; Your precious blood, my remission of sins. Let this Eucharist be my joy, health, and gladness.”[9]

After ingesting the bread and wine, in the Divine Liturgy of Saint Mark, an Alexandrian liturgy, the priest was instructed to affirm the following: “All of us who partake thereof they may tend unto faith, sobriety, healing.”[10]

Examining early Irish and Scottish communion rituals confirms a “large number of texts relating to the sick.”[11] Eucharistic healing is specifically referenced in the Book of Mulling (7th Century), the Book of Dimma (8th Century), and the Stowe Missal (9th Century), along with the Scottish Book of Deer (11th Century). Each beautiful, hand-copied manuscript presents a variation of the following communion formula: “May the body with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ be health for you unto eternal life.”[12]

Through many centuries, there was an unmitigated hope for recuperation through the church’s liturgy.

This article was adapted from my forthcoming work, Regeneration: A Complete History of Healing in the Christian Church. If you would like information about the ongoing development of this book, click on the following link:

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[1] Meredith B. McGuire, Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life (New York Oxford University Press 2008), 37-38.

[2] Raymond Johanny, “Ignatius of Antioch,” The Eucharist of the Early Christians, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1990), 61.

[3] Ignatius of Antioch, "Epistle to the Ephesians 20:2," in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 1.50-51.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Diadache 10:3b, 5a referenced in Willy Rordorf, “The Didache,” The Eucharist of the Early Christians, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1990), 3.

[6] Willy Rordorf, “The Didache,” The Eucharist of the Early Christians, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1990), 11.

[7] Andrew Daunton-Fear, Healing in the Early Church: The Church's Ministry of Healing and Exorcism from the First to the Fifth Century (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2009), 95.

[8] Caesarius quoted in F.W. Puller, The Anointing of the Sick in Scripture and Tradition, with some Considerations on the Numbering of the Sacraments (London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1904) 67.

[9] The Divine And Holy Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints Father among the Saints John Chrysostom Archbishop of Constantinople (Eparchy of Newton, 2009), 92.

[10] “The Divine Liturgy of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, the Disciple of the Holy Peter,“ Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 7, , eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899), 558.

[11] John Hennig, “Liturgy, Celtic,” Dictionary of the Middle Ages, volume 7, ed. Joseph Reese Strayer (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986), 614.

[12] Frederick S. Paxton, Christianizing Death: The Creation of a Ritual Process in Early Medieval Europe (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1990), 81

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