The Eucharist

I was intrigued by this post

Additionally, Saint Paul did not write that the Eucharist was a “remembrance” (easily twisted), but rather a “participation” in the Body and Blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16). It cannot get much clearer than that, even if you are trying to reverse engineer the faith using the bible alone.

Salient point: J.R.R.Tolkien, in a letter to his son, summarized the “reformation” as an attack on the Eucharist.

Protestants have several positions on this subject, the most consistent one denies the ‘real presence’.

The original Protestants, Lutherans, affirm the Real Presence and can not find common ground with those who deny this most basic aspect of the Eucharist.

You make an excellent point, but I would think it correct to say that the clear majority of Protestants today reject the Real Presence.

Lutherans, while accepting the presence, reject the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist. Catholics and Orthodox have consistently held to both the true presence as well as the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist.

Be careful… we Lutherans get nervous when you say ‘sacrifice’ because we understand the Mass to be God’s Service to us - but if you say that the Eucharist is a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice and is a mystery of the faith, we’ll certainly nod our heads in agreement.

From our giant book of rules:

He is the same Christ, and when he gave us the Sacrament, as the Lutheran Confessions affirm, “he was speaking of his true, essential body, which he gave into death for us, and of his true, essential blood, which was poured out for us on the tree of the cross for the forgiveness of sins” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VII, 49).

Careful? Why nervous? Our Lord is not a God of nervousness.

Leave the Catholic Church out of this - the 2,000 year belief of the Orthodox Church is that the Eucharist is both Presence AND Sacrifice. If Christ ever was something, then, being eternal, He still is.

Part of the mystery of faith is that we join ourselves to Christ’s sacrifice, offering our very selves to God, as parts of Christ’s Body. If we cannot, indeed if we do not join ourselves to the sacrifice, how dare we claim that we are parts of His Body? He suffered. We suffer.

In John 6:42-59 is the well known and understood scripture that authorizes the practice of real presence Body and Blood of our Lord at communion.

The Catholic teaching of this is literal, in context, and a faithful exegesis.
It is sometimes hard to accept, nevertheless it is the Word of our Lord.

Jesus continues for the purpose of making this point clear knowing the disciples and others present were in anguish over His instructions; drinking any blood is unacceptable, drinking human blood is barbaric, drinking divine blood is unthinkable. Jesus continues in anticipation of their concern.

John 6:60-68 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

Very well real presence is difficult, Jesus knows that, and says do it anyway. However he was not suggesting to those present that they butcher His body and collect His blood and then feast on it. Yet there was to be a butchering of His body and a draining of His blood and it is vital they understand why.

The following is an explanation aligned with a symbolic (spiritualized) exegesis; admittedly apologetics seem weaker when they are spiritualized. Also spiritualizing an apologetic can at times be a ‘cop out’ so to speak to deal with difficult scripture.

At the Last Supper (the origin of Communion) described in the gospels Jesus is performing a Passover Feast. His disciples were all Jewish and all were very familiar with the details of the Feast, they had gone through the ceremony every year and must have been one of their warmest childhood memories (much the way we enjoy the Christmas feast). At a key point in this solemn Jewish ceremony Jesus says:

Matthew 26:26-28 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

The bread Jesus broke was the central matzoh of the afikomen that was broken in two one part hidden one part kept with the father. The children were challenged to search and find the genuine half and match it up to the one in their father’s hand. A naughty child might try to fake it but there is no way for the pieces to fit unless they are genuine. Jesus was telling them (paraphrased) “you already know what this bread is, you’ve been playing this game all your life, now I’m telling you this bread is my body, yes Passover is for the purpose of leading you to me and accepting that I am the lamb to be slain.” “The third cup you know is symbolic of the blood of the lamb offered for redemption, now I am telling you it is a new contract (covenant, testament) that will take away your sins.”

The apologetic is that the old symbols are now made into new symbols and are fulfilled in Jesus by His atonement and that He is the only one (Christ) genuinely anointed by the Father and authorized to to perform this task.

Passover and the Last Supper pointed directly and immediately to the cross, communion looks back to that cross where our Lord vanquished our sin obligation. We perform the ceremony to acknowledge His sacrifice, and always in remembrance of Him.

Ah, yes. But, as Paul wrote, we actually participate in His Body and Blood. I gotta stick with Paul on this one.

I was asking you to be careful because you were misconstruing the Lutheran position.

Paul does seem to weigh in on the ‘real presence’ side.
Guess I’ll need to beef up my apologetics spiritualization :wink:

Good point.

Paul does seem to weigh in on the ‘real presence’ side.
Guess I’ll need to beef up my apologetics spiritualization :wink:

Good point.

I too had my doubts. But a few years back I had an encounter with the Holy Spirit and developed an attraction to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. I began to spend time with Him. “Things” began to happen. I no longer doubt. I recommend spending time in Christ’s presence to all seekers, Catholic or non. Amazing spiritual benefits are received.

As Fr. Benedict Groeschel observes, “When you are aware that He is there, you will be changed.”

Do tell! Are there some Lutherans who hold to the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist?

Buddy, St Paul has good company…as the rest of the apostles taught and their descendants taught of the real presence. St Ignatius was a disciple of St John and Justin Martyr in addition to his words below describes the Catholic Mass in detail,

“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Smyrnaeans, 7,1 (c. A.D. 110).

“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66 (c. A.D. 110-165).

“[T]he bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord, and the cup His blood…” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV:18,4 (c. A.D. 200).

Then there is Malachi 1 speaking to what will come. Only in the Eucharist is this fulfilled, a perfect sacrifice, world-wide, all day long. Incense too.

11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.


You are correct. And He is also a jealous God; we ought not to put ourselves in a position equal to Him.

This is what makes us uncomfortable. It sounds an awful lot like you are saying that you suffered and died to redeem yourself from your own sins - that you are equal to God - was Christ’s sacrifice not sufficient? Yes, our Old Adam is crucified with Christ and we (the regenerate) now live in Him, but this is not of ourselves. I suppose it’s about how you word it.

All Lutherans!

While a quick reading of our confessional document seems to indicate that we deny the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist - our condemnation is for a particular past practice that no longer occurs.

I’ll let Johann Gerhard explain:

"We must be clear, however, on what specifically is being rejected in these portions of our Symbols: it is the notion that the priest in some manner enters into the one sacrifice offered by Christ upon Golgotha and can apply it to those for whom he offers it in an especially efficacious way. Thus, two things are specifically abominated by Lutherans regarding the sacrifice of the mass: 1) the notion that we sinful human beings can participate in the salvific self-oblation of the Lamb of God; 2) that in the Mass the self-offering of the Lamb of God can be “ex opere operato” applied to those who do not even participate at the Holy Table. "

and even better explained:

““In the celebration of the Eucharist ‘we proclaim the Lord’s death’ (1 Cor. 11:26) and pray that God would be merciful to us on account of that holy and immaculate sacrifice completed on the cross and on account of that holy Victim which is certainly present in the Eucharist…. That he would in kindness receive and grant a place to the rational and spiritual oblation of our prayer….It is clear that the sacrifice takes place in heaven, not on earth, inasmuch as the death and passion of God’s beloved Son is offered to God the Father by way of commemoration… In the Christian sacrifice there is no victim except the real and substantial body of Christ, and in the same way there is no true priest except Christ Himself. Hence, this sacrifice once offered on the cross takes place continually in an unseen fashion in heaven by way of commemoration, when Christ offers to His Father on our behalf His sufferings of the past, especially when we are applying ourselves to the sacred mysteries, and this is the ‘unbloody sacrifice’ which is carried out in heaven.” (Confessio Catholica, vol II, par II, arti xiv, cap. I, ekthesis 6, 1200-1201, 1204. Translated by A.C. Piepkorn in The Church, p. 135.)”

Out Mass is properly called the Gottesdienst [God-Service] and is understood to be God’s re-presentation of His sacrifice on Calvary. As the body of Christ, we offer our joys and suffering to Him.

And Lutherans should understand that!

Alas - we Lutherans don’t often teach each other well!

Feel free to correct us if you find one of us who don’t understand. While we may not quite understand the sacrifice as others do - we shouldn’t be afraid to say the words.

So don’t! Yet, Paul did write that we are members of Christ’s Body, correct? Jesus did admonish us to remain in Him and He would remain in us, correct? Don’t conflate this with equality, since our union with Christ occurs only via God’s grace. Reading into the reformation, it is clear that both Luther and Calvin held to the contemporary teaching of a very severe, hellfire and damnation God. A Lutheran friend advised me that certain sects of Lutherans are known today as “Hellfire and damnation” Lutherans.

Luther’s theology is 100% his own and is tied inextricably to 16th century German thought and teaching. In holding to Luther or his successors, you may not appreciate a much older theology which teaches that the greatest of the theological virtues is love and that fear of God is properly motivated by love of God. In Catholicism, we do not exist in constant fear of sudden damnation, but seek to remain in a state of grace by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments. It is a SHAME that the Sacraments have been discarded by so many Christians. It is God’s grace, God’s free offer to us - yet we must cooperate with that grace. Sadly, many Christians no longer believe this is possible, leading to a loss of hope.

Rather, it might concern you inasmuch as you have been taught a more severe concept of the Lord God. He can condemn the entire world in a split second. Yet, if that is His disposition, why did He then assent to His Son suffering for us while we were yet sinners? That is not a severe God, but a loving and merciful God who also happens to hold judgment toward the disobedient.

As to suffering, we offer our suffering up to God, join our suffering to Christ’s, being sinful and imperfect parts of His Body, just as Paul wrote. Or, do you believe that Paul meant something entirely different here?

It strikes me that Luther’s concept of God’s disposition was closer to the OT than to early Christianity He, at times, lived in abject fear. Doesn’t this tend to render Christ’s sacrifice as less than it actually is? Isn’t this a visualization of a vengeful God that either grants or withholds favor on a whim - especially since Luther believed that we can do NOTHING to please God? Where is the hope in this?

Jesus, in both Matthew and Mark, teaches that faith drives out fear. John reaffirms this in his letter. Thus, we work toward perfecting our faith, as it is spiritually oppressive to live in constant and abject fear. The three theological virtues, as given by Paul, are a progression: Faith, hope and love. Until and unless we surpass the hurdle of faith, we cannot proceed to hope, or to perfect both of them via love. These three virtues are freely given - they are not unobtainable.

I think the uncrossable gap here is that Luther believed that God “alone” offers the Sacrifice and that we only receive it. This causes me to wonder: if Lutherans stop their services for some reason, would that mean that God’s stops offering His sacrifice to us?

Luther and Calvin seem very close on the concept of nearly everything being in God’s power and very little remaining in ours. Yet, even the Lutheran service requires a cooperation with God’s grace. Luther feared “works” so profoundly that it seems he over-reacted and placed it all in God’s hands. What does this make of Christ’s parable of the good Samaritan? That was pure works, motivated by love - yet it was pleasing to God, was it not?

This part is the section of scripture that must be tackled and understood in the cultural context of the happenings of the Passover meal. I’ve been reading RC apologetics about their belief in transubstantiation and one Apologist argues that the reason it cannot be symbolic is that the symbol (the bread) does not adequately portray Him symbolically in a concrete manner. To see the folly in this it is important to literally see the pieces of Matzoh that would have been used at the feast.

This piece of bread is indeed a specific one, and is also pure, with no leaven (and much more pure even than Matzoh at other times, since the prep for Passover insures that), it is pierced, and it is bruised in appearance from the heat that bakes it. When it is broken, it is truly broken visibly and even auditorily, and all partake of broken pieces. The blessing was specific, and then the cup was a specific cup as described above. It is indeed truly a representation.

When Paul says that we participate in it, it is compared to those partaking of the symbols of demons. In short, whatever we show forth, we participate in externally and internally. Jesus and His death is brought present, not only for us, but for all those witnessing us partaking, including the watching angels. As the Body of Christ we all show forth and preside over these happenings as Jesus did Himself. We are indeed all a part of the priesthood, and are intimately and actually participating in Him while we do these things, with the focus always on Christ.

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