Saturday, March 24, 2007

Roundtable 11: The Holy Supper

“It is taught among us that the true body and blood of Christ are really present in the Supper of our Lord under the form (Gestalt) of bread and wine and are there distributed and received. The contrary doctrine is therefore rejected.”

The Latin text is even more tersely worded: “Our churches teach that the body and blood of Christ are truly present and are distributed to those who eat in the in Supper of the Lord. They disapprove of those who teach otherwise.”

As with Article IX on Baptism, Article X is nuanced carefully to distance the Lutheran reformers from the Zwinglians and other radicals. In the background, of course, is Luther's engagement with Zwingli at Marburg in 1528. The precursor Schwabach article 10 went into much greater detail: “The Eucharist or Sacrament of the Altar also consists of two parts, namely that the actual body and blood of Christ are present in the bread and wine according to the Word of Christ: “This is my body, this is my blood,” and it is not only bread and wine as the deniers set forth. These words also deliver and bring to faith and also exercise the same in all those who desire the Sacrament and do not contradict it, just as Baptism brings and give faith, as one desires it.”

Melanchthon is clearly avoiding the issue of transubstantiation by saying the body and blood are present “under the form” (unter der Gestalt) of bread and wine. The Latin text says even less. In the Apology, he says, “that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present (vere et substantialiter adsint) and are truly exhibited (exhibeantur) with the things that are seen, bread and wine” (Apology 10.4). Only in the Smalcald Articles, do the Lutheran Confessions directly address the topic of transubstantiation, and then only to dismiss it as “subtle sophistry” for which we have no regard (SA VI.5).

The papal Confutation “finds nothing offensive in the words” of AC X but asks the reformers to affirm that the “whole Christ” in both Body and Blood is present in the bread by concomitance, and that in the consecration, the substance of the bread is changed into the Body of Christ. In Apology X, Melanchthon responds by citing positively the epiklesis of the eastern liturgies to the effect that the bread is “changed” (mutare) and becomes the body of Christ, thereby affirming an actual sacramental “change” without fully embracing the teaching of transubstantiation. The subtlety of this exchange is most instructive.

Melanchthon again takes up the Lord’s Supper in AC XIII (on the sacraments in general), XXII (on receiving both kinds), and XXIV (on the nature of the Mass). Unlike the Schwabach Articles, AC X does not mention the role of faith. In AC XXIV, Melanchthon makes three points regarding the Lord’s Supper: 1) it is not a propitiatory sacrifice of which there is but one, namely Christ on the cross; 2) the blessings and benefits are not received by virtue of the work having been performed (ex opere operato); but 3) they are received through faith, and, therefore, the sacrament requires faith.

Article X says just enough to distance the Lutherans from the Zwinglians and the othe radicals, while at the same time providing enough room to engage the various misunderstanding and abuses of the Mass.


Paul T. McCain said...

I'm wondering if in fact Melanchthon is trying to distance Lutheranism from transubstantiation. The "form" of bread and wine is not much different than what Rome still to this day says about the "form" of bread and wine in the Sacrament. It may have the "form" of bread and wine, but it is not actually bread and wine. It may taste like it, feel like it, smell like it, but it is not bread and win, only the "form" of bread and wine. Just wondering. Melanchthon is walking on cat's feet as he is composing the AC, a point that Luther somewhat gently dinged him for. So, it would not surprise me if Philip was merely trying to dodge an argument in the AC over transubstantiation.

What do you think?

wm cwirla said...

Exactly as I said. Melanchthon is clearly avoiding the whole issue of transubstantiation. Luther dismisses it with the back of his hand in the Smalcald Articles, but Melanchthon looks for every way to avoid it, both in the AC and in the Apology.

The chief issues on the table in the Augustana are the Mass as a propitiory sacrifice and the necessity of faith to receive the benefits of the body and blood of Christ, along with the distribution of both kinds to the laity. These are deferred to later articles in the AC which deal with corrected abuses.

William Weedon said...

A question on ex opere. A friend some years ago suggested to me some years ago that what's really being suggested with any talk of "ex opere" in regard to the Eucharist is that the sacrament works *without being received.* In other words, it is a benefit to the people to be there when it is performed, even if they do not partake. Even more so, that it is a benefit to the dead who, manifestly, are not receiving it. Thus, to reject "ex opere operato" specifically in regards to the Eucharist just says: "You need to EAT and DRINK what Jesus here gives for it to benefit you."


William Weedon said...

pardon the double "some years" - thought it WAS a while ago!

Paul T. McCain said...

It was very liberating to me when I discovered/realized that transubstantiation is a very silly philosophical speculation trying to grapple with the "how" of the Real Presence. Sasse does a beautiful job of demolishing it as just that: a philosophical speculation. John Stephenson in his locus on the Lord's Supper, which is, I might add, truly a tour de force, is brilliant on this point as well.

Lutheranism's "problem" with Rome is clearly *not* transubstantiation, but you would think so from what many of us were taught. We could put up with this theory if it were not for the abuses associated with it and worse yet, the bad doctrine that undergirds the Roman "Mass" -- the propitiatory sacrifice involved in the Medieval Canon of the Mass, which, though very much watered down in modern Romanism is still a very real part of Rome's confession of the Supper. The worst problem of all is regarding the Mass as something we are offering to God in order to win Divine brownie points.

Lutheranism's wonderful focus on Justification is heightened and nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in its doctrine of the Lord's Supper. It is why, elsewhere in his writings, our chief teacher, Luther, could say without reservation or qualification: The Sacrament is the Gospel.

The great "for you" is the key.

Thanks be to God.

Now if we could just get back to the Lutheran practice of offering the Supper whenever there are communicants who desire it.

Ken Wieting's book from that fine Lutheran publishing company, Concordia Publishing House is a slam-dunk for every-Sunday communion, by the way. An absolutely must-read.

Paul T. McCain said...

Bill, thank you for that observation about the meaning of ex opere. It would make a world of sense, actually, when considering Roman practice of offering masses regardless of whether or not anyone is present to receive it or not.

I've always found it interesting to think about to what extent Lutheranism can, in fact, embrace an "ex opere" view, of a certain kind, with our insistence that the faith of the individual is absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether or not the Lord's body and blood is present for us under bread and wine.

Perhaps there is a certain Lutheran version of "ex opere" that we can assert?

And, of course, so-called "consecrationism" is entirely ruled out in the Lutheran Confessions which always speak of our Lord's body and blood being PRESENT, then distributed, then received.

St. Paul closes the door on "consecration" when he confesses the cup that is blessed IS the blood of Christ.

OK, enough rambling.

It's a beautiful day in Saint Louis, 75 degrees, and I'm in the middle of reading Gaines' "Evening in the Palace of Reason" and enjoying the Fat Tire's 1554 ale.

Back to that.

Blessings, brothers, on your Lent V and Annunciation celebrations tomorrow.

wm cwirla said...

I disagree. While there are many ways one can understand the phrase ex opere operato , the confessors are quite clear that they understand this to mean engaging in a rite apart from faith.

The phrase ex opere operato first enters the confessions in Apology IV on justifying faith (see Ap IV.258).

In Ap XIII on the sacraments and their right use, Melanchthon says, "Here we condemn the whol crowd of scholastic doctors who teach that unless there is some obstacle, the sacraments confer grace ex opere operato, without a good disposition in the one using them. It is sheer Judaism to believe that we are justified by a ceremony without a good isposition in our heart, that is, without faith." (Ap XIII.18).

Again, Apology XXIV on the Mass: "For one thing, it is an insult to the Gospel to maintain that wihout faith, ex opere operato, a cermony is a sacrifice that reconciles God and makes satisfaction for sins." (Ap XXIV.89)

Again, "The wicked people in the Old Testament had a similar notion that they merited the forgiveness of sins by sacrifices ex opere operato rather than receiving it freely through faith." (Ap. XXIV.97)

It seems clear that in the mind of the confessors, ex opere operato meant use of the rite, whatever it might be, apart from justifying faith.

wm cwirla said...

Paul - I may be wrong, but I think you meant "receptionism" in your post. It doesn't make sense otherwise.

William Weedon said...


Yes, those passages of the Symbols are quite clear. I suppose, though, the notion of the sacraments being received and their being received *in faith* meet together with the proper meaning of *used.* Because of their nature as promise, no sacrament is *used* apart from faith; and without being *used* the Sacrament benefits no one. Maybe my friend said *used*?


Surely you did mean "receptionism."

Paul T. McCain said...

Yes, the confessors rightly reject the Roman notion of the very fact that a priest is "doing the Sacrament" is meritorious. What I was suggesting is that in fact, because the Word of Christ is efficacious we can rightly say, contra those inclined to the rabid receptionism that unfortunately characterizes some American strains of Lutheranism, such as as the WELS, etc. that when, in a valid and legitimate celebration of the Supper the Word of Christ are used we may rightly understand and confess that in their use, by virtue of their use, the bread is the body and and the wine is, the blood of Christ.


wm cwirla said...

I'm not sure what you're boxing at here, Paul. As a both/and theologian, I can affirm both the consecration and the reception of the Sacrament and not play one against the other.

I think the Confessions' treatment of ex opere operato all centers on the necessity of faith to receive the blessings and benefits of the ceremony. This is different from receiving the body/blood of Christ which only requires a mouth.

A thought that occurs to me in this article is how brief one can be regarding the Lord's Supper when there is no denial. I think the first statement of the small catechism is one of the finest affirmative statements on the Lord's Supper in the history of Christianity: "It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself."

Were it not for all the denials and equivocations on the one hand, and all the additions and emendations on the other, this is all that really needs to be said.

Anonymous said...

I understand the position regarding transubstantiation and I take the hard line regarding Melancthon as Pr. Cwirla puts it. I may be out of place though when I express concern regarding consubstantiation, which despite the fact that even non-Lutheran theologians stated two centuries ago and even more recently that that was a false accusation against Lutherans. However, everyone from a Puritan Ph.d.(who never did respond to my argument concerning the lie - he has or did have a Puritan web site if you're interested in hunting the gentleman down to prove his point that he takes from an old Puritan
theologian) and one fellow who just puts anything on line whether it is validated or not and argued that he knew one of the Preus family which I presume was a defense. I told him that I would wear protective gear should I ever accuse the man of that belief. The point is, if it is not stated in our Lutheran Confessions / Symbolics, "it ain't so." I did get an editor an Merriam - Webster to place it in writing that the next edition will be edited where they attribute consubstantiation to Luther's theology. But, I keep running into seminarians and laymen alike who either did not understand the term (an American cheese sandwich) or actually thought that that was what we believed. Therefore, I mention it as but one of the multiplicity of problems that exist regarding the Sacrament. Thank you for being kind enough to allow this interjection by "the old man."

Der Alt Herr Oberst

Jeffery said...

Good stuff brothers, and at its heart we see the timeless Lutheran task to confess two truths. One, that the Lord's Supper is indeed solely a work of the Lord through the means that He has established, and not a work of man. And two, that apart from the faith which recieves such gifts in the means of grace, they are no blessing at all.

William Weedon said...

Good thought, William, about how simple we can be when there is no denial. Do you remember the story, I think Nagel told it, of a student exasperated and objecting: "Well, of course, if you just go with what Jesus said, then you have to confess the real presence of His body and blood!" That's the Lutheran case for the Sacrament in a nutshell: Just go with what Jesus said. The AC lets Rome know: We ain't got no quarrel with what Jesus said!

David Jay Webber said...

Regarding "receptionism," etc., it's interesting to read the conclusions of the second meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Conference, held in 1857. This conference was attended by the likes of Walther, Krauth, Loy, and Preus, among many others who later distinguished themselves in various ways. Incidentally, no one from the Wisconsin Synod of that time was present. The Wisconsin Synod was still pretty much mired in pietistic unionism in 1857, and the free conference stipulated unconditional adherence to the Augsburg Confession for those who wished to participate. Anyway, here is what the conference concluded in its reading of AC X:

The discussion of Article 10 [of the Augsburg Confession] was continued and the words, "and are there distributed and received" were noted. With these words the real presence of the body and blood of Christ is expressed yet more clearly than through the previous words that they are "truly present." Here it is expressly declared that they [the body and blood of Christ] are present just as much in the hands of the minister as in the mouth of the communicant and, even, as the Latin text shows through the word vescentibus (the body and blood are distributed to those eating) no matter whether one is believing or unbelieving [Hier werde naemlich bezeugt, dass sie auch sowohl in den Haenden des Administranten als im Munde der Communicanten gegenwaertig seien und zwar wie der latein. Text durch das Wort vescentibus (Leib und Blut werde ausgetheilt den Essenden) ergebe, gleichviel ob dieselben glaeubig oder unglaeubig seien]. (Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the Evangelical-Lutheran Free Conference [1857], in Der Lutheraner 14:11 [January 12, 1858], p. 84)

It would be hard to fit a "receptionist" understanding into that statement. What these American Lutheran fathers were saying was that, by virtue of the Word and institution of Christ, his body and blood are offered to communicants, and are present for them in the Supper. This is affirmed by an acknowledgement that the body and blood of Christ are "in the hands of the minister" and not just in the mouths of the communicants.

There are echoes here of Luther's 1533 admonition to the Franfurters, to be on their guard against Zwinglian pastors and not to receive Communion from them. Luther had written:

...our double-tongued sectarians...say: "Christ's body and blood are truly in the Sacrament, but of course spiritually and not bodily." They stay with their previous error, that there are only wine and bread in the Sacrament. ... When a faithful heart has knowledge of such wickedness and falsity in his pastor, or suspects him of it, what should he do? Do you really think that it is possible for his heart to be set at peace trusting such outrageously false words as: "Believe in the body, which Christ meant, and ask no further?" No, dear friend! He believed as much as that already before he came, even if he does not go to the Sacrament. The reason he comes and asks this question is because he wants to know whether he receives with his mouth only bread and wine. He does not ask what he should believe in his heart concerning Christ and his body, but only what is given to him by the hands [of the pastor] [Nicht fragt er, was er von Christo und seinen Leibe im Herzen glauben soll, sondern was man ihm reiche mit den Haenden]. ... Therefore, this is my honest advice, for which before God I am held accountable both to you in Frankfurt and wherever else: whoever has public knowledge that his pastor teaches Zwinglianly, he should avoid him and rather go without the Sacrament all his life long rather than receive it from him - yes, even be ready to die on this account and suffer everything before that. If his pastor is one of the double-tongued sort who mouths it out that in the Sacrament the body and blood of Christ are present and true, and yet who prompts an uneasiness that he is selling something in a sack and means something other than what the words say, you should go to him, be free to inquire of him, and have him say quite plainly what it is he gives out to you with his hands and what you receive with your mouth [So gehe oder sende frei zu ihm, und lass dir deutlich heraus sagen, was das sei, das er dir mit seinen Haenden reicht, und du mit deinem Munde empfaehest]. What one believes or does not believe in the heart can wait for another time. One should put to him the straight question: "What is held here in hand and mouth?" (Martin Luther, An Open Letter to Those in Frankfurt on the Main [1533], Concordia Journal 16:4 [October 1990], pp. 337-38 [WA 30, III, 558-571]).

Jay Webber

wm cwirla said...

The whole "receptionist" vs "consecrationist" business is an unfortunate result of the failure to heed Luther's admonition "Laß das Sakrament ganz bleiben" (Leave the Sacrament whole). Clearly, the distribution formula "This is the true body/blood of Christ" makes no sense if it is not true prior to the eating and drinking. And the words of institution tell us what to do with the body and blood of Christ, namely, to eat and drink.

Paul T. McCain said...

Here is a fascinating glimpse into what was simply confessed at the time of our Lutheran Confessions. This is from the foreword prepared by Martin Chemnitz' "boss" at the time he wrote his "Repition of the Sound Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Altar" ... in the 1560s, Joachim Moerlin of Braunschweig. Note what Moerlin flatly asserts:

In our church we maintain the form of sound words which Christ, the Son of God, used from the beginning in His institution of His Supper and which He wanted and commanded us to use. We also say that, after the bread has received its blessing or the declaration of the Word, as Justin and others speak, it is the body of Christ. Moreover, no one should think that we are playing with the ambiguity of the word, as the chief trick-players now have the habit. We also add that declaration which we have in the words of Christ, namely, that we take "body" to mean not power nor efficacy nor union nor sign of the body but for the very substance or essence which was hanged on the altar of the cross and which our High Priest, Christ Jesus, sacrificed for the redemption of all humankind. We therefore obviously reject and condemn all the madness of the Sacramentarians, who, for no other reason except that they cannot comprehend and measure with their foolish thoughts the power of God, wrap up in their own darkness the very manifest and clear words of Christ and carry them off into another meaning in such a way that they deceitfully strip from us the testament of God and in it this very sacred treasure.

Leipzig: 1561

Translation by Richard Dinda. Unpublished, copyright 2007.

Eric Phillips said...

> While there are many ways one can understand
> the phrase ex opere operato , the confessors
> are quite clear that they understand this
> to mean engaging in a rite apart from faith.

Who was teaching that the sacraments saved apart from faith? I don't think that's ever been taught by the Roman Catholic Church, except perhaps in the case of those who are incapable of cognition (e.g. infants, the mentally retarded).

Am I wrong?

William Weedon said...


I can still remember Nagel writing it on the board:

Laß das Sakrament ganz bleiben!

That and the repeatedly heard analogielosigkeit!!!!


Paul T. McCain said...

OK, what does "analogielosigkeit" mean?

For the courtesy of our readers, and, ok, me, let's always be sure to translate our terms and phrases when we use them.

Muchas gracias amigo.

William Weedon said...

Sorry! Analogie - analogy losig - less keit - ness. Analogylessness. The Church does not do her theology by analogies for, as Luther once said, "they don't frighten the devil."

Gerhard, by the way, is the great Lutheran analogy theologian - at least in his devotional writings and sermons. "Gleich" has got to be his favorite: "like" X is "gleich" Y.

Paul T. McCain said...

OK, please unpack your very important observation that we do not do theology by analogy. Klarheit, bitte! (Clarity, please).

[Great discussion, by the way!]

William Weedon said...

Pity sake, don't have time to unpack it today. Have shutins to attend to! But it's in Luther in more than one place in his writings on the Supper. To put it most simply: theology is built on God's prose, not on His poetry. More later, God willing.

Paul T. McCain said...

Tantalizing tidbit good Reverend. Looking forward to more elaboration on the whole "God does theology by prose, not poetry." I do thank the busy preachers on this blog site for their contributions. Rev. Weedon is particularly ambitious this Passiontide. I hear that he is actually offering Divine Service on ever single day of Holy Week and the fully cycle of services associated with Easter too. Just like Lutherans used to do things. Good on him.

wm cwirla said...

It's why we get the bulk of our doctrinal theology from the epistles of Paul and not from the psalms.

(I go with Eugene Petersen who says that the term "busy pastor" is the sign of a noun gone bad.)

RevFisk said...

Is not that sacrament "received" ex opera operate, but "benefits" by sola fide?

At Sem, they taught us the question to ask the sacramentarians was: "if a buddhist eats the Supper, does he get Jesus too?" The sacramentarian, who views the meal strictly as an individual act of faith must say no. According to both Scripture and the Confessions, we must say, "Yes! But it is a deadly Jesus he receives!"

So, there is an "ex opera operata" *element* to the Supper, even as there is in Baptism (is a baptism invalidated by lack of faith? is it not still God's Word?) --- with that last thought, maybe ex opera verbum is a better phrase, no? ---

Point being, there is something in the Sacraments that happens without faith, but only faith can cling to that objective justification, and thus, a mere ex opera operata, without faith, does not result in the sinner's subjective justification.

Was I clear, or just plain wrong? :)

William Weedon said...

No one is good except for God alone! You know that.

As to the prose vs. poetry thing: analogies abound and in them one sees how poetic our God is, how He DOES prefigure and hint around and coyly tease us with intimations of the Feast that is coming.

One of the early Church's favorites was seeing how just like the individual grains of numerous wheat stalks was gathered into one loaf, so the church is gathered from the ends of the earth as one body into the Kingdom. Same with the individual grape and the wine. Lovely imagery. And true enough. But theology isn't built upon such things. As Luther said more than once: "That doesn't scare the devil."

What does scare the devil is to shove the words of Jesus into his face. Thus, the theology of the Eucharist is built upon the sturdy, plain, can't mess with 'em words of Jesus: "This is my body, given for you; This is my blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins."

To borrow from a sectarian bumper-sticker, faith says: "Christ said it; I believe it; and that settles it." THAT scares the bejeezees out of Satan!

After we have that straight and clear, we can go romping through the Scriptures delighting in all God's poetic ways of prefiguring this Holy Supper. And it is amazing how much we'll find it was on His mind! But for the clear teaching of what it is, we don't BEGIN by running to any "it's just LIKE this: Passover, Melchizedek, Manna, etc." Instead, we reverently listen to our Lord Himself tell us what it is.

"My body." Which body? The one "given for you." "My blood." Which blood? The only blood "shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins." That's what the pastor holds in his hands and places into our mouths.

That's what I meant by God's prose - His clearly intended soberly spoken and delivered promises. His poetry is all the way He delights to prefigure that in Scripture and at times even in nature.

William Weedon said...


You forgot that we only work one day a week... ;)

wm cwirla said...

I don't even work that day.

Paul T. McCain said...

I thought it would be good to have before as well the relatively brief comments on AC X found in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. What wonderfully comforting truths this material contains. In the Lord's Supper we are receiving the living Christ. What powerful comfort and assurance. Into our dying bodies is given the living Christ. Thanks be to God.

54] The Tenth Article has been approved, in which we confess that we believe, that in the Lord's Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and are truly tendered, with those things which are seen, bread and wine, to those who receive the Sacrament. This belief we constantly defend, as the subject has been carefully examined and considered. For since Paul says, 1 Cor. 10, 16, that the bread is the communion of the Lord's body, etc., it would follow, if the Lord's body were not truly present, that the bread is not a communion of the body, but only of the spirit of Christ. 55] And we have ascertained that not only the Roman Church affirms the bodily presence of Christ, but the Greek Church also both now believes, and formerly believed, the same. For the canon of the Mass among them testifies to this, in which the priest clearly prays that the bread may be changed and become the very body of Christ. And Vulgarius, who seems to us to be not a silly writer, says distinctly that bread is not a mere figure, but 56] is truly changed into flesh. And there is a long exposition of Cyril on John 15, in which he teaches that Christ is corporeally offered us in the Supper. For he says thus: Nevertheless, we do not deny that we are joined spiritually to Christ by true faith and sincere love. But that we have no mode of connection with Him, according to the flesh, this indeed we entirely deny. And this, we say, is altogether foreign to the divine Scriptures. For who has doubted that Christ is in this manner a vine, and we the branches, deriving thence life for ourselves? Hear Paul saying 1 Cor. 10, 17; Rom. 12, 5; Gal. 3, 28: We are all one body in Christ; although we are many, we are, nevertheless, one in Him; for we are, all partakers of that one bread. Does he perhaps think that the virtue of the mystical benediction is unknown to us? Since this is in us, does it not also, by the communication of Christ's flesh, cause Christ to dwell in us bodily? And a little after: Whence we must consider that Christ is in us not only according to the habit, which we call love, 57] but also by natural participation, etc. We have cited these testimonies, not to undertake a discussion here concerning this subject, for His Imperial Majesty does not disapprove of this article, but in order that all who may read them may the more clearly perceive that we defend the doctrine received in the entire Church, that in the Lord's Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and are truly tendered with those things which are seen, bread and wine. And we speak of the presence of the living Christ [living body]; for we know that death hath no more dominion over Him, Rom. 6, 9.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

The phrase "under the form of bread and wine" in the AC, along with some of the comments in the Apology, i.e. "changed into," etc. were widely criticized in the late(r) Reformation period because it presumed to allow for and, in fact, support transubstantiation. This perspective was further exacerbated by Eck's response in the Confutation which adopts the same language used by Melancthon,

"...this should also mean they believe that *under each form* then entire Christ is present - the blood of Christ is no less present *under the form* of bread through concomitance than it is *under the form* of the wine and the reverse. Otherwise, in the Eucharist the body of Christ is dead and without blood, which would be contrary to the words of St. Paul 'We know that Christ being raised from the dead, will never die again' Romans 6[:9]. In order to complete this article, it is necessary to add that the church, contrary to what some falsely teach, is able by the almight Word of God in the consecration of the Eucharist *to change the substance of the bread into the body of Christ.*" (Eck's Confutation, p. 112, Kolb/Nestingen's "Sources and Contexts").

A few notes from this -- what Eck suggests that the Lutherans ought to also be saying, Melancthon seems to affirm in the Apology. Not only does Melanchthon point out that this article "was approved" by the Confutation, but he explicitly says that the Roman Church (as well as the Greek Church) affirms the presence of the Body of Christ, and in expanding that point, he uses the "changed" language. While Melanchthon does not explicitly repeat Eck's argument regarding Concomitance, he nonetheless seems to affirm Eck's concern by way of citing Romans 6:9, "death hath no more dominion over him," which had first been cited by Eck in the Confutation. Thus, while Melanchthon clearly doesn't exclude Transubstantiation, he seems to be affirming absolutely as much of Rome's doctrine here as he can get away with. After this point was criticized in later years, Melanchthon revised this article in the 1540 Variata, or "second edition," and, oddly enough, was then criticized (by Eck, in particular, but also *I think* Flacius) for affirming the Reformed doctrine. In reality, as the Preface to the BoC allows that the Variata be read and understood insofar as it is not interpreted to contradict the 1530 AC, Melanchthon was not affirming the Reformed doctrine in 1540 any more than he was affirming some of Rome's positions in 1530. For the sake of striving toward unity, however, as he had done with Rome in 1530, in 1540 he attempts to go "as far as he can" in their direction without, at the same time, forsaking the true doctrine. It was likewise Chemnitz' opinion that Melanchthon never departed from his original confession of this Article.

Paul T. McCain said...

Thanks for your comments Ryan. I'm very grateful that we have more in our Confessions on the Holy Supper than AC and Ap. X; for instance, Luther's "the bread is the body of Christ" in the Smalcald Articles confession and the penetrating clarity of both the Epitome and the Solid Declaration.

More good discussion to come as we get into those documents, I'm sure.

Paul T. McCain said...

Ryan, in your comments you mentioned how the Lutheran Confessions do not reject Transubstantiation, per se, but reject is an absurd and unnecessary philosophical speculation. Similarly, with concomitance, we find the same thing in our Confessions and in Luther. Concomitance is not rejected because anyone believes that in the Sacrament we do not receive the Living Lord Jesus, but it is rejected because it is a philosophical sophistry constructed by Rome to defend communion under only one kind.

I found Hermann Sase's remarks on this point in This is My Body to be quite helpful:

"The classical expression of Luther's position is to be found in the words of the Smalcald Articles:

"For we do not need that high art which teaches us that under the one form there is as much as under both...For although it may perhaps be true that there is as much under one kind as under both, yet the one form is not the entire ordinance and institution commanded by Christ...we especially condemn and in God's name execrate those who do not only omit both forms, but also tyrannically prohibit, condemn and blaspheme them as heresy. " Sasse's translation from the German.

Sasse continues:

If in the passage quoted from theSA, Luther still thinks, as the normative German text suggests, of a remote possibility that the idea of concomitance might be correct, we shall not be surprised to find him to be a defender of that doctrine in the early years of the Reformation. When the Bishop of Meissen in 1520 rejected Luther's demand for communion that the whole Christ is under either species, Luther confessed that was his belief too: Who has ever doubted that the whole Christ is under both species?"

Sasse explains at what point and why Luther spoke differently about concomitance. Note: Luther never rejected concomitance because he believed that it was an error to think/believe that the whole Christ was present under the bread and the wine, but precisely because this doctrine had been use by Rome to defend denying the laity of the cup!

A "doctrine of concomitance" has no standing in Holy Scripture, but trying to preclude any idea that in the bread and wine we receive the Living Christ, is very sadly wrong.

Concomitance, as a "dogma" to justify not giving the cup to the laity is of course, error. But to try to counter that error with opposite error and thereby divide the Person of Christ is equally wrong. To insist that it is the dead Christ that is received in the Supper is contrary to the Lutheran Confessions, see Ap. X quoted above and contrary to Holy Scripture, since we know that death no longer has any hold over our Lord.

Source: Sasse, This is My Body, pp. 78-79

Paul T. McCain said...

More from good Dr. Sasse. He indicates in his truly magisterial study on Luther's contention for the Real Presence, "This is My Body" that modern Lutherans compromise on the Real Presence by avoiding reference to the body and blood of Christ as actually located under the bread and wine, as Luther so clearly confesses in the SA.

This generic "presence of Christ" talk is what modern Lutheran ecumenical arrangements hinge on, not on a doctrine of concomitance.

Sasse decries the Arnoldsheim Theses for compromising the doctrine of the Supper by resorting to generic "presence" talk. But he forcefully asks:

"If the body of Christ is not the body which was born of the Virgin Mary, which hung on the cross, was raised from the dead, and sits at the right hand of the Father, that, then is meant by 'body' and 'blood' In what sense are these words being used?" (p. 337)

While we can appreciate the concern that we must always take care to confess the actual presence of Christ's body and blood, we dare not deny that it is Christ Himself who is present. That would be to fall into the other side of the ditch on these issues.

Sasse indicates in his book, "The idea that Christ should be adored in the Lord's Supper should certainly have prevented older dogmaticians like Quenstedt, and modern scholars like H. Gollwitzer, from limiting the presence, as Luther believed, to the body and blood of Christ. Even when he later rejects the doctrine of concomitance, Luther never doubts that Christ himself gives us His body and blood in the Sacrament. " (p. 146)

Sasse adds this footnote to a paragraph in which he explains Luther's shift in emphasis during his great controversies with the Zwinglians.

Sasse writes:

"Another trend in Luther's thinking on the Sacrament during these years is a new stress on the personal presence of Christ, not only of His body and blood, which is perhaps a result of his doctrine on the ubiquity of Christ." (p. 146)

So, we see, that there is nothing wrong, at all, in talking about the presence of the Living Christ, as our Confessions do. The problem is when that present Living Lord is not specifically identified as being present, with His actual body and blood, under the elements. Luther even flatly asserts in the SA that the bread IS the body of Christ. But it is not simply a hunk of dead body, it is Christ!

In asserting the presence of the body of Christ and His blood we dare not indulge in erroneous speculation that it is somehow *only* His body and blood, and a dead body and a dead blood, or that Christ separates some of his dead body and blood from His living person, and that we can even say that it is not Christ, but "just" His body and blood.

There are dangers to be avoided on both sides of these fascinating coins of confessing the presence of Christ in His Supper.

Liberal Lutherans love to confess the presence of Christ and avoid talk of the body and blood of Jesus under the bread and wine. I've noticed trends of talking about the "real presence of Christ" in the liturgy. I do not think that is a wise way to conform ourselves to the pattern of sound words in our Confessions either on the notion of "real presence."

Classical Lutheranism in its Confessions and golden age of orthodox theologians and hymn writers rejoiced to confess that Christ is made ours, and we His, precisely in the fact that He gives us His body and blood. Note: Hisbody and His blood, not merely a dead body and dead blood separated from the Person of Christ.

Thanks be to God.

Paul T. McCain said...

Here's another comment from a great Lutheran father, Martin Chemnitz, that I think helps us understand the connection between the humanity and divinity of Christ in His Supper:

"The humanity of Christ is the point of connection between us and God Himself, as Cyril says, and as we shall demonstrate more fully later in the book concerning the hypostatic union [a reference to Chemnitz' "Two Natures in Christ"]. Therefore, in order that we might be able to lay hold on Christ more intimately and retain Him more firmly, not only did He Himself ssume our nature but He also restored it again for us by distributing His body nd blood to us in the Supper, so that by this connection with His humanity, which hs een assumed from us nd is again communicated back to us, He might draw us into communion and union with the deity itself. And from this it is possible to understand what is involved by disputations the substance of Christ's flesh is carried away from the Lord's Supper out of the world. [A refutation of Calvin's view of how we commune with the flesh of Christ in the Supper]."

The Lord's Supper, p. 188

And then a few pages later Chemnitz makes this point:

"The human nature of Christ, its limitations having been set aside, has been removed from all the miseries and injuries of this world and now resides in the glory of the Father. But our nature, although according to the promise we have the hope of glorification, is still befouled with uncleanness, oppressed with miseries, and exposed to all the darts of Satan, the world, and the flesh. As a result our faith is under the cross and still terribly tossed about by temptations. Therefore, in the Supper, Christ offers us His own body and blood which have been exalted above all miseries into the glories of the Father. He does this in such a way that through them He joins Himself to this miserable nature of ours, so that with this most present and sure guarantee and seal He may give us the certainty that He does not wish us to remain in these miseries forever but that we shall someday be conformed to His glorious body which He offers to us in the Supper as a seal of our own coming glorification."
Chemnitz, Lord's Supper, p. 191

wm cwirla said...

As long as we are looking at Apology X, I thought it might be good to have the text of the Confutation on this article in front of us, since Melanchthon is responding directly to it:

The tenth article gives no offense in its words, because they confess that in the Eucharist, after the consecration lawfully made, the Body and Blood of Christ are substantially and truly present, if only they believe that the entire Christ is present under each form, so that the Blood of Christ is no less present under the form of bread by concomitance than it is under the form of the wine, and the reverse. Otherwise, in the Eucharist the Body of Christ is dead and bloodless, contrary to St. Paul, because "Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more," Rom. 6:9. One matter is added as very necessary to the article of the Confession - viz. that they believe the Church, rather than some teaching otherwise and incorrectly, that by the almighty Word of God in the consecration of the Eucharist the substance of the bread is changed into the Body of Christ. For thus in a general council it has been determined, canon Firmiter, concerning the exalted Trinity, and the Catholic faith. They are praised therefore, for condemning the Capernaites, who deny the truth of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Melancththon clearly ducks a sucker punch in Apology X. The Confutation is attempting to get him to deny the 4th Lateran Council’s formulation and is baiting him with the notion that where body and blood are separate (as they in fact are in the Sacrament!), the Body of Christ “is dead and bloodless.” This is a fallacious line of reasoning intended to draw Melanchthon into a critical denial. I like Lief Grane’s comment on Apology X: “Here it is obvious that Melanchthon’s efforts at being conciliatory have been carried to the point of consciously obscuring the differences, rather than merely suppressing them” (Grane, 116).

On the preceding discussion that flowed out of Article X: The notion of “dead body” and a “dead blood” strikes me as strange in view of what Jesus says: “This is my body which is being given (didomenon) for you” (Luke 22:19) and “This is my blood of the covenant which is being poured out (ekxunnomenon for the many” (Mark 14:24). Note the present participles. When Jesus originally said this in the upper room on the night of His betrayal, His body and His blood had not yet been given into death or poured out. That would come 21 or so hours later, chronologically speaking.

The point is that one cannot chronologically isolate one part of the history of Christ’s incarnation, that is to say, the body and blood in the Supper are the same body and blood born of Mary, crucified on Calvary, raised from the dead, and glorified at the right hand of the Father, regardless of when it is being given to eat and to drink. As we must leave the Sacrament whole, so we must leave the work of Christ whole, as we leave Christ Himself whole. It is as much the risen and glorified body and blood of Christ as it is the crucified body and blood of Christ.

Having said that, the physical separation of the Body and the Blood in the holy Supper specifically underscores that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrificial meal, distributing the fruits of Jesus’ "once for all time" (ephapax) sacrifice. The separation of body and blood is the essence of sacrifice - the body given, the blood poured out. This is specifically the sacrificial Body of Christ given into death and the sacrificial Blood of Christ poured out to atone for the sin of the world. The focal point of the Sacrament is the sacrificial death of Jesus: “For as often as we eat of this bread and drink of this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

Paul T. McCain said...

Thank you Bill, for your comments. Very well put. I had a few more thoughts in general, and then one specific observation on a comment you make in the post toward the end.

There is a vast richness and depth in classical orthodox Lutheran confession on the Lord's Supper. When I read Martin Chemnitz' marvelous treatment of the Supper and reflect on the various devotional writings of our Lutheran fathers from the 16th and 17th century, and the fantastic Eucharistic hymnody from these times, and then moving ahead, come to the profoundly moving sermons and writings of Walther and others on the Supper, I am made more aware of how much we need to recover the deep Eucharistic piety and practice of our fathers. Walther referred to the Lord's Supper as the "Holy of Holies" of the New Testament! Indeed.

I do see this recovery happening, more and more, as we move to more frequent, hopeful every-Divine Service communion, as we discuss together an earlier age of first communion, getting away from the unfortunate connection of first communion with confirmation, a practice brought in via Pietism, and as long as we continue carefully to maintain the sound doctrine, the sound practice will follow as well.

It is precisely because we eat and drink the flesh and blood of the Lamb of God, sacrificed to take away the sin of the world, that we have a share in the Risen Lord's victory over, sin, death and hell, as the Chemnitz quotes explains so well in the quote in the previous post. Our dead and dying bodies receive His Living and Glorified body and blood, the same sacrificed for the sins of the world.

I'm thinking a bit about the phrase "physical separation" to refer to the reality that we do receive the whole sacrament: the body and blood in the Sacrament. I would prefer to speak of "distinction" but not "physical separation." We certainly do want to avoid the foolish sophistry Rome introduced with the notion of concomitance, done chiefly to justify their denial of the cup to th laity, but an unnecessary philosophical speculation, even if it is not actually wrong, as Luther allows for in the Smalcald Articles. But it is certainly not necessary and raises a host [no pun intended] of other needless speculations and potential conflicts and questions that we would do well simply not to entertain and to avoid.

I would propose speaking about the reality of the unique and specific presence of our Lord's body and blood in the Sacrament by borrowing from the helpful Chalcedonian Christological categories used to talk about the reality of the two natures in Christ: they exist without confusion, without change, without division, without separation. And leave it at that. Or safer yet, just stop simply with saying, "This is my body" and "This is my blood." Gift given. Gift received. Amen.

And not try to speculate into the "how" of that blessed reality. Seems we can take a wrong turn in several ways if we go much further than that.

Much more to be about all these things in Martin Chemnitz' "Two Natures in Christz" and "The Lord's Supper" -- two books I highly recommend to readers of this blog site. Available from a certain Lutheran publishing company:

wm cwirla said...

By "physical separation," I was referring specifically to the "after supper" of the institution narrative. Christ's giving of His Body and the giving of His Blood were physically separated by several hours and a meal. This is much more than a distinction.

Luther even advocated that each be given out separately with their own words, but this is, of course, impractical with a large number of people.

This is not about the personal union of the two natures of Christ, but about the essential nature of sacrifice in the separation of body from blood. Of course, it is the whole Christ, as God and Man, who does these things and is present in them.

Paul T. McCain said...

Thanks for the clarification.

A nice way to commemorate the Supper on this Maundy Thursday, April 5, 2007.

"Lord, may your body and your blood, be for my soul the highest good!"

"O Living Bread from heaven, how well you feed your guests."


wm cwirla said...

Paul's mention of Ap. X.4 and the distinction of "dead" and "living" body, brings to mind what Edmund Schlink has to say in hisTheology of the Lutheran Confessions. I especially like the way he keeps the work of Christ whole, as I indicated above, that one cannot isolate a portion of the history of the body and blood of Christ to the exclusion of the rest. Schlink writes:

"'In this sacrament, he [Christ] offers us all the treasure he brought from heaven for us' (Large Catechism V.66). Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper are the body and the blood which Christ, after his condescension from heaven into the flesh, once gave and shed on Calvary and which he now as the exalted risen Christ acts in this giving. Not only he who is on the way to the cross but also he who sits at the right hand of the Father is present in the Lord's Supper.

"The identity of the giving of the body, once on the cross and now in the Lord's Supper, has its basis in the words of institution of Jesus Christ and in the identity of the crucified and risen Lord: The exalted Lord acknowledges as his own, and acts according to, the words which he spoke in his humiliation when he instituted his Supper. In the Lord's Supper the body of the crucified and the body of the exalted can no more be torn apart than the crucified and exalted Christ himself. 'We are talking about the presence of the living body (so Jonas translates praesentia vivi Christi); for we know, as St. Paul says, that death no longer has dominion over him' (Ap X,4).

We dare not ignore the resurrection of the body given on the cross when today we receive Christ's body and blood. If the living Christ is present bodily in the Lord's Supper, then we must also believe that the glorified, resurrected body of the exalted Lord is given and received. If this were denied, all statements about the presence of Christ's body, that is, thre bodily presence of the living Christ who did not remain in the grave, would be untenable.

On the other hand, the exalted body is never for a moment to be separated from the body given on the cross, the marks of which it bears. The question whether in the Lord's Supper the crucified or the glorified body is received is in every way improperly put.

For the glorified body is the same body which had been suspended on the cross. In the doctrine of the Lord's Supper this truth must be stressed: The exalted Christ is present bodily as the crucified Christ, and the body a nd blood of the exalted Christ are present as the body given on the cross and blood shed on the cross."

(Schlink, 160-161)