The Sacrament of the Altar

A Book on the Lutheran Doctrine of the Lord's Supper


Preface to the English Edition

I wish to express my gratitude to the Reverend Dr. Robert D. Preus, president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, who has made it possible for this book to reach its readers. I also thank Mr. Edward L. Rye, Stockholm, who made the first translation of the manuscript, the final version of which I myself have gone through.

The Rev. Professor Dr. Hermann Sasse, North Adelaide, South Australia, had helped me from the very beginning of my career as a scholar. He rejoiced at the news of a future English edition of my book, but he did not live to see it. To the memory of my beloved Hermann Sasse I dedicate this book.

Tom G. Hardt

No part of this document is to be further published or disseminated by any means without the express permission of Erling T. Teigen, 314 Pearl St., Mankato MN 56001 (e-mail: ).




I. The Sacrament Is Founded On Scripture Alone

II. The Sacrament Is The True Body Of Christ

III. The Sacrament Does Not Coincide With The Omnipresence Of The Body Of Christ

IV. The Sacrament Means That Real Bread Is The Body of Christ

V. The Sacrament Is Achieved By The Reading Of The Words Of Institution

VI. The Sacrament Is The Body And Blood Of Christ--Not The Whole Christ

VII. The Sacrament Is Adorable And Extended In Time

VIII. The Sacrament Is A Means Of Grace


I. The Sacrament Is Founded On Scripture Alone

The Christian doctrine of the Lord's Supper is sometimes treated on the basis of ideas derived from the field of the psychology of religion. The doctrines of the various denominations are, in such cases, categorized in such a way that belief in the Sacrament as the body and blood of Christ is considered characteristic of what is termed the Catholic type of religion, which seeks support for its belief in the tradition of the church, in the darkness of cathedrals, and in its devotion to the host. The teaching that the Sacrament is a symbol, mere bread and wine, is deemed to be part of the Protestant type of religion, with its belief in Scripture alone, a puritanical absence of tradition, and concentration on personal religion. It is probably correct to assume that, even within the bounds of conservative Lutheranism today, many an adherent of the doctrine of the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament looks more or less in that way at the foundation of his faith. He finds it absurd to think that Scripture alone is the basis of belief in the Real Presence. People like this want safer ground under their feet: Mother Church, which has always taught the Real Presence. An affirmation of the Real Presence founded on traditionalism should be confronted with a reminder that this is dogmatically a very vulnerable position. During the Reformation, Luther's friend and helper, Philip Melanchthon, was brought to waver in his faith about the Holy Presence, when he studied the opponents' lists of quotations from the fathers of the church and saw how confusing the testimony of the ancient church on the Sacrament could sometimes be.

At the famous disputation between Luther and his Reformed antagonist, Ulrich Zwingli, at Marburg in 1529, this appeal to the ancient church was made in a modest way when Zwingli pointed out that a certain latitude of views existed among the church fathers, and that that state of affairs could make it possible for Luther and Zwingli to commune at the same altar. In a touching appeal, Zwingli asks Luther for the hand of fellowship across the different interpretations of Jesus' words at the first celebration of the Lord's supper. That hand is turned away by Luther, who, through references to the possibly divergent opinions of tradition, was never brought to hesitate, unlike Melanchthon, concerning the Real Presence and its exclusive claims to be true. What matters to Luther also here is what Scripture, the Bible alone, testifies. In his lectures on the Psalms held in 1532, Luther states that we stick to Christ's words about the Sacrament without questioning them, preferring them to any and all human views and evaluations, even those of the ancient church.1 This does not mean that the sometimes careless way the Reformed used quotations from the fathers was indulgently allowed to pass. In other contexts, Luther, on exactly this point, could prove that the Reformed misunderstood the texts of the fathers.2 But what is important is the fact that Luther, in principle, did not accept dependence on anything but Scripture.

Luther dealt frequently with the problem which confronts us here. False institutionalism at the expense of the truth, a characteristic of the church of councils and decretals, had resulted in neglect of the purpose of the exegesis of Scripture with its necessarily exclusive alternatives of true or false. Such exegesis had been replaced with a vague faith operating within patristic quotations of desirable elasticity. The Evil Power infused into Christendom the notion that not everything had been revealed to the apostles, that Scripture was insufficient as the only rule of faith, since, after all, its content was subject to dispute. Thus the church was referred to the fathers. But such faith becomes a loose faith with a vague profile, marked by the will to stick together within indefinite boundary lines, rather than by the Biblical passion for truth, which is a battle fought for God himself. This is what happened to the Father's plans: since they wanted to have Scripture without fights and struggles, they became the cause of leaving Scripture entirely and ending up in purely human speculations. Then all disunity and all dispute about Scripture ceased indeed, but that was a divine struggling, God fighting with the Devil, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 6:12: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world."3 What happened at that time is going to happen again after Luther's death: the apocalyptic finale which Luther describes prophetically, turns out to be an institutionalizing which forms a parallel to that of the papacy. Desperatio veritatis will reign, he says, a despair about the truth which makes us get tired of Scripture and of trusting it,4 while the eagerness to observe human statutes will be all the greater. These factors alone will be what holds together that church which is without faith and without Scripture.

In the controversies about the Sacrament, Luther finds among his adversaries just such a general vagueness; he does not find primarily a doctrine which runs contrary to his own. Their unwillingness to debate on the basis of Scripture leads to their being satisfied with making faces and using arguments such as "This is unspiritual." In the controversy itself, his enemies reveal an incomprehensible softness, a timidity that does not come from God: They operate with a weak, timid conscience.5 These critical words which Luther voiced well suit the peculiar laxity which we can see in Zwingli, despite his indisputable eloquence. In one of his books, Zwingli admits that he had not carefully read Luther's latest book. Nonetheless, he undertakes its refutation. A friend of his had informed him of the contents of Luthers book while they were going for a walk. This conversation had to serve as compensation for the deficiencies in Zwingli's study of Luther.6 The reason for this dogmatical disinterest is, as Luther accurately observes, the fact that his adversaries operate on the basis of two general principles given by natural religions. These principles make any and all discussions about individual Bible verses superfluous. These two principles, which raise the Christian from the myopia of Bible study, are the following: first, the Real Presence is not of any use, viz.; it cannot be proved that the Real Presence is a necessary part of the doctrine of justification; secondly, the Real Presence is unworthy of God, for God neither can nor should be locked up in a little piece of bread and, even less, be given to the godless or even fall on the floor.7

Luther very carefully analyzed these two cardinal errors of his opponent, especially the first. This means that in the battle for the Lord's Supper which Luther carried on through the entire course of his theological career, he explicitly condemned and anathematized the basic theory of modern Luther research and of the modern Luther renaissance. This basic theory is often worded in roughly the following way: Never think that you have grasped one of Luther's teachings until you have reached the point where you can trace it back to the forgiveness of sins. Often with the unmistakable tones of pulpit oratory, the doctrine of the Real Presence is, in such cases, traced back to the psychological necessity of a concrete meeting with God in order to uphold fellowship with Christ. On all levels of modern theology, we run up against this attitude to Luther's material. In the reader or hearer the impression is necessarily created that either Luther was guilty of a grossly, monotonous schematic-thinking in dealing with the words of Scripture or that the modern research scholar reveals such a defect in dealing with Luther. Concerning this systematic motivation for the articles of faith, and for the doctrine of the Real Presence in particular, Luther himself says: If they [his opponents] had tolerable insights into the faith, and had at any time felt a spark of faith, they would know that the highest and the sole virtue of faith is that faith does not seek to know why that which is believed in is of use or why it is necessary. For faith does not wish to set up borders for God or call upon Him to render account as to why, for what purpose, and for what necessary reason He commands a thing. Faith would rather be foolish, give God the honor and believe His mere word.8 The question itself is the work of the Devil: In like manner our mother Eve also had God's word for it that she was not to eat of one particular tree. Then the enthusiast's false god came to her and said: Why did God give such a command as that, as if he meant: What is the use of this? Why should this be necessary?9

At Marburg Castle this decisive difference with regard to Christian revelation became manifest during the talks between Zwingli and Luther. In his first speech against Luther, Zwingli says: And finally you yourself concede that the spiritual eating [in accordance with John 6] gives consolation. And since we are in agreement on this major point, I ask you for the sake of the love of Christ not to accuse anyone of heresy on account of this difference [about the Sacrament]. The fathers did not condemn one another rashly, even if they were not in agreement.10 In Zwingli's view this major point, faith's eating, about which the parties agree, makes bodily eating unnecessary: When we now have the spiritual eating, what is the use of bodily eating?11 Again and again, Luther's opponents emphasize the fact that the Real Presence lacks systematic support in the doctrine of justification. However, Luther makes no attempt to produce any such pious explanation. Instead he summarizes his views in one monumental sentence which is so important, that it can be said to surpass his triumphant words, "This is my body," which Luther had written on the table with chalk. This sentence of Luther's, which makes it possible to believe in the words This is my body, reads: Every article of faith is in itself its own principle and requires no proof by means of another one.12

Luther gives us an extensive explanation of this sentence. Your argument is built up like this: Because we have a spiritual eating [by faith], bodily eating [of the body of Christ in the Sacrament] is not needed. I answer: we do not by any means deny the spiritual eating; indeed we teach and believe all over that this is necessary, but that does not prove that the bodily eating is not necessary or superfluous. I do not search for an answer to the question if it is necessary or not. That is not our business. It is written: "Take, eat, this is my body" and thus one absolutely must so do and believe. One must, one must . . . . If He commanded me to eat mud, I would do so. I would do so because I know more than well it is for my benefit. The servant should not quibble about his Lord's will. One must close one's eyes. The benefit Luther confesses he believes in is here, in principle, none other than the benefit which consists of obedience to the will of God, which we can never penetrate. That will can never be made the object of scrutiny according to some pattern. Oekolampadius, Zwingli's co-worker answered Luther and said "Where is it written, Herr Doktor, that we are to go through Scripture with our eyes closed?" In saying these words, what he attacks is not a paradoxical Biblicism which persists in maintaining untenable positions for the sake of offence. He attacks scientific exegesis which definitely refuses to force upon the Bible justification by faith as a systematic, straight-jacket principle governing interpretation and which instead has no other aim but to let the material speak: I abide with my text.13

The words must be heard in their naked form, Luther says repeatedly after the Marburg talks: "And even if it were such an insignificant sacrament that it gave me no benefit and was unnecessary so that neither grace nor help were given in it, [even if] it were merely God's command and law requiring us to use it, by virtue of this divine power which we are bound to subject ourselves to and obey, this would, on account of this covenant, compel and invite us not to despise it or deem it a superfluous or a lowly thing, but rather to use it diligently with earnest and in faithful obedience and to honor it highly, since nothing can be greater or more wonderful than what God bids and commands by His Word."14

The concentration on obedience to God without would-be-pious looks to the left and right for personal consolation and needs for salvation does not, of course, mean that Luther in any sense wanted to deny that the Sacrament gives grace. We shall deal with that in another chapter. But the conviction that the Sacrament is a means of grace does not have its place in the interpretation of Jesus' words about bread and wine. What is decisively characteristic of Luther and of all truly Christian theology is the fact that the doctrine can be put forth in the form of a loci i.e. arranged in such a way that each doctrine in principle is prescribed by itself, independent of other doctrines. Luther's pronounced admiration for Melanchthon's Loci15 shows that he considered this system exemplary. The reason why Luther did not publish a similar little book for young people was merely because he lacked pedagogical skill, as he himself says. The contempt which many modern theologians, and especially modern Luther scholars, show towards the loci method is based on the notion that justification by faith is the threshing floor of faith, and on the conception of Luther's religion as one single eruptive outbreak of one single experience of a psychological nature, which has to be found in everything Luther ever said.

In this context it can also be said that Luther's view that the articles of faith are not interdependent, is also reflected in his conviction that soul-murdering heresy can never be defined as limited to the rejection of the central articles on salvation. Stubborn rejection of the miracle of the Sacrament leads to damnation when correct instruction has been given. He that makes God into a liar in one of His Words and blasphemes or says that it is unimportant if He is blasphemed and made out to be a liar, blasphemes God in His entirety and considers all blasphemy a trifling thing.16 "They are bound over to punishment and 'sin unto death' as St. John says. About their leaders I speak; the poor people subjected to them may our good Lord Jesus help out of the hands of these murderers of souls. They, I say, have received frequent exhortation."17 "They console themselves, I am told, with the fact that they write a lot of books and that they are very busy in the church and with Scripture. To what avail? They adulterate the Word of God and His Sacrament and they do not want to listen. But he that does not hear God will in turn not be heard by Him; 'his prayer shall be abomination,' Prov. 28:[9]."18 That is why Luther, as a servant of Christ, pronounces condemnation over those who have condemned themselves. This condemnation does not take a detour via a conclusion that denial of the Real Presence would logically lead to other, even worse heresies. Such demonic logic does indeed exist, and Luther points this out. But this is not what gives such great weight to Luther's powerful anathema against Zwingli and those who consciously dishonor the Sacrament. "And even if they boast that they believe in this article about the person of Christ and talk about it a lot, don't believe that. They lie in everything they say about this. With their mouths they do indeed say so (just as the demons in the Gospel call the Lord the Son of God) but 'their hearts are from me,' Matt. 15:8. That is certain. Just as the Jews swore by the living God, but their talk was false, the prophet says.... For it is certain that he does not rightly believe in an article of faith (after having been exhorted and instructed), he does not believe in any one article with the right earnest and faith."19 Here we see the background for the solemn damnamus, we condemn, contained in the Lutheran Confessions in their doctrinal articles following the usage of the synodical decrees of the ancient church. Here the confessions, like Luther, distinguish between seducers and the seduced: "However, it is not our purpose and intention to mean thereby those persons who err ingenuously and who do not blaspheme the truth of the divine Word, and far less do we mean entire churches inside or outside the Holy Empire of the German Nation. On the contrary, we mean specifically to condemn only false and seductive doctrines and their stiff-necked proponents and blasphemers."20 "The ban is thus directed not against the many pious, innocent people ...[who] go their way in the simplicity of their hearts, do not understand the issues and take no pleasure in blasphemies against the Holy Supper as it is celebrated in our churches according to Christ's institution and as we concordantly teach about it on the basis of the words of His testament. It is furthermore to be hoped that when they are rightly instructed in this doctrine, they will, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, turn to the infallible truth of the divine Word and unite with us and our churches and schools."21 Nevertheless, despite all this tender feeling towards the simple people who, during Holy Week 1525 had to say good-bye to Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrament of the cloister church of Zurich22 the whole sharpness of real Biblical curse remains against those who knew their Lord's will and did not act according to it.

For Luther, that explicit will of God is to be found clearly and unambiguously in Jesus' declaration at the first celebration that the bread and wine in this meal are the body and blood of Jesus. Also the heathen of ancient days as well as the Jews, who for centuries have accompanied Christianity with constant criticism against, among other things, the Sacrament, have all, through their accusations of cannibalism, confirmed this circumstance common both to faith and to unbelief, to wit, that the Christians' Sacred Meal takes place by virtue of words which declare that bread and wine are Jesus body and blood.23 A Jew or Turk who denies the truth of revelation must nonetheless find that Christian faith is just precisely the Real Presence.24 The fact that Luther was involved in polemics about the Sacrament should not be allowed to obscure the fact that Luther always considered the doctrine of the Real presence easy.

In this respect, Luther gets unexpected support from his opponents who concede that the factual wording of the words of institution would seem to teach the Real Presence. This is, they think, the low and carnal meaning, which he who is spiritual elevates to the spiritual level required by generally valid, systematic norms. It is here that the many well-known symbolic interpretations, which often contradict one another, come in. For Luther, however, this flight away from the obvious and self-evident remains an unnatural thing, and it is for him unnatural that his opponents thus admit that they have corroboration for their views, not in the text, but somewhere else.25 Perhaps Luther's strongest argument against a symbolic interpretation of the Sacrament is the one in which he wonders how the Reformed think Christ should have expressed Himself to teach the Real Presence, if that was what he wanted to do. By virtue of the principles established by the opponents, they can turn every expression into symbolism. This excludes the Real presence a priori so completely, that even the linguistic means of expressing even a hypothetical Real Presence have been blown to pieces.26

This allegorizing by principle has, Luther says, also other, equally catastrophic effects, e.g., the transformation of the account of creation to a symbolic understanding. Christianity could thus be compelled to adapt itself to heathen philosophy and natural science, teaching like Aristotle and Pliny that the world is eternal and that there never was any such thing as the first human being named Adam.27 This would seem to be the inevitable result of a spiritual interpretation of the words of institution.

Luther asks his opponents just where the allegorical nature of the words of institution is supposed to have been proclaimed. Of course, Luther knows of a vast number of parables in Scripture. But in all of these it is clearly said that they are parables, either in such a way that it is directly stated that a parable is to follow, or by clarification through other passages of Scripture. For instance, it is made clear that Christ is not a botanical vine, but the God-Man who is thus to be considered a spiritual vine: "I am the true vine" (John 15:1).28 In connection with the institution of the Sacrament, there is no proclamation given to the effect that the Supper is a parable. Since Scripture contains no further interpretation of the Sacrament, the words of institution stand alone without intermediaries. For this reason they must be taken literally. Of course, this does presuppose that Scripture as such is intended to be understood and that the person speaking is not some whimsical person whose words and actions are incoherent, some kind of person who, without premeditation just throws out statements with a veiled meaning. A sterling summary of that attitude is found in the Lutheran Confessions which dwell on the circumstance that Jesus in this sad, last hour of his life...selected his words with great deliberation and care in ordaining and instituting this most venerable sacrament. These words are Jesus last words, His will and testament, filled with consideration and the desire for clarity. This is a Sacrament which was to be observed with great reverence and obedience until the end of the world Jesus knows that the eyes of all the faithful, until the end of the world, are directed at His lips that night.29 That is why Jesus spoke so unambiguously. He is the unambiguous God who already in the days of the Old Testament was a God of clarity. There is, of course, no more faithful or trustworthy interpreter of the words of Jesus Christ than the Lord Christ himself, who best understands his words and heart and intention and is best qualified, from the standpoint of wisdom and intelligence, to explain them. In the institution of his last will and testament and of his abiding covenant and union, he uses no flowery language but the most appropriate, simple, indubitable, and clear words, just as he does in all articles of faith and in the institution of other covenant-signs and signs of grace or sacraments, such as circumcision, the many kinds of sacrifice in the Old Testament, and Holy Baptism.30 The ministers of the new testament standing before the altar are guided by directives that are no less clear and unambiguous than those given to Aaron before the mercy seat. In both testaments, God's servants are to take God at His words.

With the above we have stated the most essential things about Luther's interpretation of the words of institution. A closer study of his refutation of the Reformed symbolism leads to the polemics he was forced to engage in. His arguments there are an overabundance, not prerequisites for achieving certainty as to the real meaning of the words of institution. It is not necessary to know all about those controversies in order to have met what convinced Luther of the gift of the Sacrament of the Altar. Provided that this is kept in our thoughts, a few of the arguments Luther used in this context will be taken up here. For instance, Luther points out that if the symbolic interpretation, according to which the bread is not Christ's body, was correct, Jesus words, "This is my body," would be a sentence without any meaning at all. The words, "Take, eat, do this in remembrance of me," would give the entire content of the whole Sacrament.31 Furthermore, Luther wonders what sense the sentence, to the effect that the bread signifies the body, is supposed to have. What he demands is not the demand of systematic theology for a Real Presence. He demands that Jesus' words must be sensible, must make sense. Why would the Church until the end of the world have to be informed of such a flat allegory?32 Where, by the way, does the resemblance and similarity between bread and the body of Christ lie? The Passover had an evident resemblance to Christ being slaughtered for the salvation of many. What reason would there be to replace this splendid sacrament of symbolism with the plain and incomprehensible bread symbol?33 The similarity cannot be found in the very action of the Sacrament (the breaking), because the explanatory words refer to the elements present, not to an act.34 Above all, Scripture says that the body of Christ was not broken. The chalice, the content of which was not poured out in parallel with the breaking of the bread, has even less similarity of any kind.35 Luther also shows that the breaking of bread is a common action when bread is eaten and lacks symbolical significance. Thus all speculation about the breaking of the bread was once and for all disposed of within Lutheranism. By the way, it not only lacks foundation in Scripture, but also support in the ancient church.36

Luther naturally concedes that there are cases of a symbolical use of language in the Bible. Vine means, in accordance with a common, simple, linguistic usage, a certain kind of plant; but in symbolic usage (tropus) it means something else. "I am the vine," thus means that the usual word, vine, is given a higher dignity and means a spiritual vine, Christ the life-giver. In the expression "The seed is the Word of God," it is shown that seed in the parable was used as a new word, designating spiritual seed, the Gospel which bears fruit. In all such cases the usual word receives a higher dignity: the tropus word does not, of course, point back to the old word. Reformed symbolism would, however, create the strange situation that the concept "my body" in the words of institution would get the meaning sign for my body, i.e., it would be given a lower dignity and point back to a reality which was more full. This goes entirely against Scripture's form of symbol words.37 However, all such reasoning is and remains completely superfluous. No one can prove that the Sacrament is symbolic and that the words should be taken in any other sense than in their usual, everyday, literal meaning.

Every closer study of the symbolic interpretation of the Reformed shows that what faces us is a flight from facts. The different exegetical details in their interpretations are derived from easily accessible, general principles taken from the legacy of spiritualism which, like a shadow, has followed Christianity throughout history. Faced with the Biblical fact that the body and blood of the Creator, sacrificed and smitten, rest on the Christian altar, there arises in every age a spontaneous protest, formulated by Zwingli: The soul eats "spirit and therefore it does not eat meat."38 A modern Reformed scholar has commented on Zwingli's words apologetically: This is not flat rationalism, but rather a testimony of how the Spirit is tied to God (Gottesverbundenheit des Geistes).39 Perhaps one could agree, but then it must be stressed that it is not a matter of flat rationalism in the sense of atheism. However, what does occur in Zwingli is a pious rationalism which, in Luther's eyes, is a greater enemy of the Biblical truth than heathen rationalism, which must admit the unambiguity of the words of institution.


1 WA 40:3, 32, 28 (etiam vaeteris ecclesiae).

2 WA 23:129.4ff., 109.29 ff., 219.22ff. (LW 37:109f, 125, 146).

3 WA 23:67.34ff. (LW 37:15).

4 WA 23:71.3 ff. (LW 37:17).

5 WA 23:73.10. (LW 37:19).

6 Walther Koehler, Zwingli und Luther I, Leipzig 1924, 646, 652.

7 WA 19:486.10 ff., WA 23:157.26 ff. (LW 36:338; LW 37:70).

8 WA 23:249.22ff. (LW 37:128).

9 WA 23:249.37ff. (LW 37:129).

10 Walther Koehler, "Marburger Religionsgespraech," Schriften des Vereins fuer Reformationsgeschichte, 48/1, Leipzig 1929, 7. Most easily accessible is the Marburg Colloquy in Herman Sasse, This is my Body, Minneapolis, 1959, 215-272, 2nd ed. Adelaide, 1976,173-220.

11 Koehler, "Marburger Religionsgespraech," 13.

12 Koehler, "Marburger Religionsgespraech," 34.

13 Koehler, "Marburger Religionsgespraech," 13.

14 WA 30ii:601.7ff. (LW 38:104).

15 WA TR 5:5511.

16 WA 23:85.1ff. (LW 37:26).

17 WA 54:148.21ff. (LW 38:296).

18 WA 54:155.9ff. (LW 38:303).

19 WA 54:158.14ff. (LW 38:308ff).

20 The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore A. Tappert, Philadelphia 1959, 11, (Preface).

21 Tappert, 118.

22 Sasse, This is my Body, 132, 2nd ed., 105.

23 WA 26:406.27ff. (LW 37:272).

24 WA 26:496.34ff. (LW 37:359).

25 WA 26:445.20ff. (LW 37:304), WA 26:270.18ff. (LW 37.168).

26 WA 26:452.35ff., 451.21ff., 447.14ff. (LW 37:309, 306).

27 WA 23:91.10ff., 26:406.20ff. (LW 37:30; LW 37:272).

28 WA 23:103.15ff., 26:275.21ff. (LW 37:38, 174f.).

29 Tappert, 577 (SD VII, 44).

30 Tappert, 578 (SD VII, 50).

31 WA 26:389.31ff. (LW 37:261).

32 WA 26:390,.23ff. (LW 37:262).

33 WA 26:395.18ff. (LW 37:264).

34 WA 26:391.26ff. (LW 37:262).

35 WA 26:398.1ff. (LW 37:266).

36 WA 26:397.21ff., Die deutsche Thomas-Ausgabe, Summa Theologiae, 30:467 (LW 37:266).

37 WA 26:380.20ff. (LW 37:253f.).

38 Koehler, "Marburger Religionsgespraech," 15.

39 Koehler, Zwingli und Luther II, 138.


II. The Sacrament Is The True Body Of Christ

Faced with the sentence "The Sacrament is the true body of Christ," one may indeed ask what is meant by an intensification like the word "true." If we speak of the body of Christ, we cannot reasonably be speaking of any other body than the one that was born of Mary, nailed to the cross and arisen from the grave. This is "true," and it ought to be impossible to mean anything else. But just as the word presence must be defined as real presence, and just as in the Nicene Creed, Christ must be referred to as true God, so Christian experience with the work of error makes it necessary to speak of Christ's "true" body. For centuries speculative minds have found ways to empty words of their meanings. From the very beginning the church was surrounded by a heathen philosophy, Platonism, which divides existence into two levels: the sphere of visible things and that of their real kernel, the idea, a shadow world behind things. (The Platonists themselves were of the opinion that the physical world was a shadow world in relation to the non-sensuous existence.) In the teaching on the Sacrament of the Altar which is called Augustinian after the church father, St. Augustine, it is, following the thinking described above, a question of a presence of the idea of the body of Christ, which has an almost independent reality in relation to the physical body of Christ in heaven. The medieval church sometimes used the concept substance in the same sense. Especially within the school based on Thomas Aquinas, this concept was used to designate the invisible something of things, a something which is the essence but which has no extension, is not visible and cannot be weighed. The body of Christ which is present in the Sacrament of the Altar becomes the substance of the body of Christ. The difficulty of thought involved in the notion that the whole body of Christ could be contained in its entirety, not only in the little host, but also in a most minute particle of it, is thus easily solved but at the price of the physical concretion of the body of Christ. The substance is declared to be non-local; the same substance is in all of the air in space just as it is in a little bit of air. In like fashion the illocal and invisible substance of the body of Christ can, of course, be contained anywhere. The doctrine of transubstantiation, so-called--a concept which in itself allows for the most divergent interpretations and is by no means unambiguous--means for Thomas that the invisible substance of the visible bread, lacking existence in space, is replaced by the equally invisible and illocal part of the body of Christ which is called its substance. Since it is a question of spiritual realities outside space, this change of substance does not in any way mean that the body of Christ is tied to any place. The remaining external properties of the bread merely convey a relation to space which is not precisely described: through the mediation of alien dimensions.40 If, then, those external properties of the bread should cease to exist, it would no longer be possible to speak of a presence of the substance of the body of Christ. The latter would not cease to exist on the altar or in any other place; it would never have been there through a genuine existence of its own. It exists as a substance entirely exempted from spatial conditions.

That this reasoning has disastrous consequences for the Real Presence is evident from the following discussion in Thomas. It is important for the modern reader to restrain his spontaneous judgment that the next example used is based on superstition. It is through the position towards a certain occurrence within medieval popular devotion, with all its deficiencies, that light will be thrown upon questions far more serious than the one of the scripturalness of the occurrence itself. It is commonly said that the heart of medieval devotion is expressed in the belief in the so-called Mass of St. Gregory, the miracle in which Jesus became visible in the host. According to tradition, this occurred once when St. Gregory the Great celebrated mass. Similar occurrences were mentioned as having happened in many quarters; sometimes the suffering Man of Sorrows was seen, sometimes it was the newborn Babe. Confronted with such accounts, Thomas had to deny their possibility: Jesus is not at all present in the Sacrament in such a way that He could possibly be seen, even through a miracle. If the bread has ceased to exist as the accounts propose to say, then the body of Christ has lost the one and only mediate tie-up with space. Furthermore, substances are accessible only to the intellect. If the veil of the species of the Sacrament falls, the concealed Savior, whom faith yearns to behold, is not unveiled. If the pious account is true, St. Thomas' system falls instead, and this he must prevent. He looks for a way out of his dilemma in various ways. In one case, he presumes that God has effected a certain perception in the eyes of those who saw the miracle, i.e., an objective hallucination. Thomas' major thought must not, in any case, be disturbed: that the substances as such are not visible or accessible to any of the senses or to the imagination, but only to the intellect, the object of which is "that which is."41 For Thomas the reality of the Sacrament exists only in the ideal world of thought.

In this way the body of Christ has evaporated through philosophical speculation, and the accounts of popular faith about the revelation of the Man of Sorrows could not even hypothetically be true. The Sacrament is no longer a veil concealing the true body of Christ. It gives only the shadow images of the wandering intellect, beyond all spheres of reality. In correspondence about this, Hermann Sasse has penned the following words: "Yes, Thomas Aquinas was a Semi-Calvinist. He anticipated the ideas of the Swiss reformers which in time totally destroyed the Sacrament." Other quarters as well have come to this insight in the debate now taking place, without voicing the complaint expressed by Hermann Sasse and without the important reservation that Thomas' faith was better than his doctrine, and that he who wrote the wonderful sacramental hymn, Pange lingua, and the office of the Corpus Christi feast--a feast which at that time had not yet been united with the introduction of the extra-biblical sacramental procession--reached higher with his heart and his devotion than he did with his mind and with his pen.

The world of medieval theology was not exclusively under Thomas' domination. At the side of his school of thought, Thomism or realism, there was another school called nominalism or Ockhamism, the name of which was derived from its most outstanding representative, William of Ockham. Its fate today is that it is described as the mother of un-churchly theology and the grandmother of the Age of Enlightenment, the French Revolution and unbelief. The triumphal procession of the Thomistic school within the later Roman Church has not only put the heretic's hat on the factual views of its competitor. It has also inspired all kinds of statements and slogans which do not, indeed, correctly reproduce the viewpoint of nominalism. For example, it is often said that nominalism denied that a natural knowledge of God (in accordance with Romans 1:17) or objective knowledge at all was ever possible. Such statements are erroneous.42 Erroneous also are the cultural-historical considerations which regard nominalism as the cancerous growth of European culture, the rescue of which would be a return to a cultural synthesis of Thomistic coinage, which in fact never existed. These romantic considerations can be sharpwitted in view of the symptoms of sickness in our modern-day existence, but this does not vouch for insights into the history of philosophy and culture. The only thing, however, which has real importance in our context, is the fact that nominalism rejects the substance concept that Thomas embraces. The divorce has ceased between the kernel of things in its incomprehensibility and sublimity on the one hand, and its factual concretion on the other. Even though transubstantiation is accepted as an expression in obedience to the church, the body of Christ is present as a genuine reality and with an existence of its own. The presence is indeed miraculous, so that by the special intervention of God it cannot be beheld, and so that the presence is the same in every particle of the host which can be broken, without Christ's body being broken; but nevertheless, that which appeared when the Man of sorrows appeared is precisely the Lord and gift of the host who has come to us. The fact that the species of the bread has ceased to exist means only that the concealing veil has fallen. Concerning this a modern Thomist theologian has written critically, "As Ockham shows us, even learned theology has on this point gone over the border into the sphere of popular devotion."43 Nominalism does, in fact, stand up for the concrete, popular devotion, for the non-speculative, non-philosophical, Biblical concretion in matters concerning the body of Christ in the Sacrament. This should not be construed to mean that nominalism was inclined to a naive belief in miracles and had a tendency to believe any and all accounts about bleeding hosts and babes in swaddling clothes on Altars. In this respect, representatives of this school were restrained and insisted on the right to freely investigate the instances. Nominalism retained the right to ascertain that all such accounts were in fact pure superstition. Nonetheless, it affirmed in principle the possibility of such occurrences. The miracle that all of the resurrected Christ is given in the slightest particle of the host is not, in nominalism, valued because of some idea that the body of Christ is deprived of its physical concretion. Jesus can appear as true man in His Sacrament.

As far as the Lutheran teaching is concerned, it is important that Luther confesses that he clearly takes his stand with the view of the nominalistic school as to substances.44 This does not mean that Luther is the prisoner of a philosophical system. Like nominalism, he gave up on an insoluble problem. The ancient shadow of reality beyond reality is gone. Thus Luther identifies himself with the preaching which has hitherto occurred saying that the natural body of Christ in the Sacrament is as big, wide, thick and long as it was when He was on the cross.45 "Thus they [the deniers of the Sacrament] say that it is unsuitable that God should work so many miracles in the Sacrament which He does not do elsewhere. For the fact that we believe that the one body of Christ is at one hundred thousand places [at one time], that so many pieces of bread are broken, and that the large bones are hidden there, that no one sees them or recognizes them, all this they deem unsuitable, are much surprised and do not understand that these are thoughts without benefit. For if anyone wishes to measure in that way, nothing in creation will remain."46 (Here follow the parallels taken from the miracles of creation, such as the miraculous fact of vision--typical for Luther. With a verve like that of Chesterton, Luther shows how that which is natural is basically absurd and incomprehensible.) These words about the full presence of the unlimited corporality of Christ in the consecrated host was just too much for the Philippistic editors--pupils of Philip Melanchthon--who edited the first edition of Luther's works. Consequently, the words were simply omitted.

The use of this editing principle made it imperative to remove quite a number of passages in Luthers works. (The gnesio-Lutheran--genuine Lutheran--edition of his works, which appeared immediately afterwards as a countermove, naturally put them back in again.) For Luther contends consistently that Christ remains an external, bodily thing after His resurrection.47 In a way that was and still is a stumbling block for spiritualists, Luther determines that the incarnate God remains man in all eternity and that Christ's resurrection is not the act through which His humanity is removed or diluted in any way. Luther sees a parallel between the resurrected Christ's passing through the grave stone and His entering into the host. "When Christ's body passed through the stone, His body remained as big and thick as it was before . . . . That is just the way He is and Christ can be in the bread, too."48 With great sharpness, Luther rejects here the medieval, natural philosophical speculation which counted light as a basic element of existence and thought that light, darkened in the present era and bound to its effects, had by the resurrection of Christ been restored to its original power, which included the ability to penetrate bodies (subtilitas). The superiority of the body of Christ in relation to material--in its passing through the stone and its coming to the bread on the altar--was thereby established by means of diluting its corporality, making it into something resembling fire. The stumbling block which the miracle presents is thus removed: the resurrection and the Sacrament thus no longer give the true body of Christ, but rather a flame of fire designated by that appellation. "But they will not get away from me by their 'subtlety.' It is still the same body of Christ, and the door is closed, too. And Christ did not slip in between the cracks and the nail holes. He had flesh and bones, as He Himself testifies in the last chapter of St. Luke."49 Neither at Easter nor in the Sacrament is Christ a spirit revelation or an apparition of a spirit with a corporality like the protoplasma of the Theosophists, an undefined fluid on the threshold between two existences. "The body of Christ, be it as it may in spiritual or bodily essence, visible or invisible, is real, natural flesh, which one can grasp, feel, see and hear, born of a woman, dead on the cross."50 Even if the resurrection made Christ exempt from, e.g., the need for food, he remains one who does not lack flesh and bones.51 Also when Christ is in the hearts of the believers, it is the man Jesus that takes His dwelling in man's temple with unlimited corporality.52 When the Apostle speaks of a spiritual body in 1 Corinthians 15, this should by no means be construed as meaning something opposed to flesh and blood, but as something in contrast to that animal life which is subject to the law of corruption.53 And when Luther in extravagant words praises the body of Christ as a spiritual flesh--we shall deal with this in detail in the last chapter of this book--it is, of course, the bodily Christ that he is praising, because God's body exercises a spiritual effect: "for it is a spiritual flesh and it is not changed, but it changes and gives the Spirit to him who eats."54 Here we stand before Luther's absolute awareness of the significance of sticking to the letter of Scripture and to the ordinary meaning of the words. The stumbling block of the Real Presence must never be removed by making the body and blood of Christ something other than the true body and blood of Christ. Sabotage against the linguistic means of expression cannot be used to save us from the hardness of biblical speech. Thus it remains a fact that Jesus' glorification is not a defrocking of His human nature. This world is governed by a God with a human face: in the center of existence there thrones a man with body and limbs like ours. This God-Man effects the miracle that His body and blood are contained in the lowly species of the Sacrament.


40 Summa Theologica (ST) III, qu. 76, a. 5.

41 ST III, qu. 76, a. 7.

42 U. Helmer Junghans, "Ockham im Lichte der neueren Forschung," Arbeiten zur Geschichte und Theologie des Luthertums, Band XXI, Berlin u. Hamburg 1968.

43 Erwin Iserloh, Gnade und Eucharistie in der philosophischen Theologie des Wilhelm von Ockham. Wiesbaden 1956, 257 note 243.

44 WA 6:510.13ff. (LW 36:31ff.).

45 WA 18:142.35ff. (LW 40:153).

46 WA 19:486.22ff. (LW 36:338).

47 WA 23:261.26. (LW 37:136).

48 WA 26:346.36ff. (LW 37:216).

49 WA 26:419.25ff. (LW 37:279).

50 WA 23:185.1ff. (LW 37:89).

51 WA 20:759.11f. (LW 30:302).

52 WA 20:759.6ff. (LW 30:302).

53 WA 20:759.10ff. (LW 30:302).

54 WA 23:205.10f. (LW 37:100).


III. The Sacrament Does Not Coincide With The Omnipresence Of The Body Of Christ

More than any other controversies, the Christological controversies concerning the one person and two natures of Christ have, for the modern observer, the stamp of dried flowers in a botanist's collection. Even when it is supposed that they may have had significance for people of a past age whose thinking had the prerequisites for them, they are explicitly said to lack relevance for people in our day. Even a conservative sermon which intends to have redemption as its focal point avoids everything smacking of dogmatic Christology. The result of this is, however, mortally detrimental to faith in all its functions. If redemption does not describe how One of the Holy and Immortal Trinity suffers on the cross in the human nature He assumed, the meditation on the person of Christ will inevitably become a nauseating hero worship. The entire direction of Christian worship to the central person in the New Testament will then assume traits of an unhealthy intimacy. The feeling of anxiety, which seizes both believers and unbelievers faced with a Savior, however forgiving, who is portrayed outside the orthodox rules of Christology, can be said to be a righteous protest against heathenism in the sanctuary, launched by both innate and Biblical monotheism. This holds true especially in regard to the body and blood of Christ which rest upon the altar in the midst of the congregation. If it is not a question of God's body and blood--belonging to Him not as clothes but as parts of His eternal person--both Holy Communion and a book like this one, which is devoted to the fact of the Real Presence, become incomprehensible and obnoxious. The rejoicing kindled before the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament is possible only if the persons who adore know that they are standing in front of the Power that created them, whom they cannot refuse to worship without denying the sense of all human existence.

It is often presumed that the great denominations have a common Christology. The disputes once waged and connected with the battle names from the coast of Asia Minor--Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon--are presumed to have had lasting, unambiguous results, preserved in unanimity by the denominations of today in their confessions of faith. This uniform picture does not correspond to actual facts. The Lutheran Church represents a Christology which is essentially different from that of both Roman and Reformed theology. This means, consequently, that the churches have different interpretations of the decisions of the council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. The decrees of that synod involved, among other things, the relation between the divine and human natures of Christ with the formula unconfusedly and indivisibly. This formula is often heard in our day, but it is rarely perceived that there might be difficulties in interpreting these words. However, even the presentation given in the conventional works on the history of dogma ought to arouse the observant reader's suspicion. These tell us that Patriarch Nestorius was wrongly condemned by the Chalcedon synod: his teaching on the two natures is said to be actually in agreement with the decisions which pronounced the New Testament condemnation over him. On the other hand, we are told that Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria, to whom the council paid its homage, was in fact a heretic from the viewpoint of the council's own teaching. The latter is supposed to have been guilty of monophysitism, i.e., the peculiarity of the human nature would have been swallowed up by Jesus divine nature so that in fact only one nature was to be found in the God-man. Behind this accusation lies the following thought: Cyril of Alexandria indubitably taught a real communication of the divine attributes to the human nature of Jesus. For this reason, it is thought the two natures cannot have existed unconfusedly. However, this axiom is not an axiom. As we shall find, Lutheran Christology, which considers itself the heir of Cyril of Alexandria and John of Damascus (highly revered also in the Eastern Church), retains the integrity of the natures and nevertheless admits the communication of the divine attributes to the created human nature of Jesus. Once one is able to think this thought, the controversies leading to Chalcedon appear in more comprehensible patterns.

The settlement which the Lutheran reformation worked out here and which sets a boundary against both Roman Catholic and Reformed Christology means that the banner of Cyrillian Christology is once again raised in the West. A false, un-Biblical, Nestorian, schematic Christology is replaced by the faith in the One Lord. The Christology which had become the leading tradition in Latin Christendom had come to regard Christ's humanity as having the same relation to His divinity as Christ's clothing had to the human nature. Only a form of ownership, called in this case person, ties together, from the beginning, the Son of the Virgin in the crib and the eternal Word. This leads to the notion that, e.g., the miracles wrought by the man Jesus in principle were worked in the same way as the miracles wrought by apostles and prophets: the power comes from a divine assistance rendered from the outside. The man Jesus cannot be worshipped either. The person of the God-Man has been deeply split. Nestorius, the one officially condemned, had once again seized power.

From 1519 on, Luther proclaims an interpretation of Phil. 2:6ff. which results in a decisive change. Now the old decision of the Synod of Ephesus was again to resound splendidly: "If any one does not confess that the flesh of the Lord is quickening, because it was made the Word's own, who quickens all things, let him be anathema."55 Once again, what Ambrose of Milan speaks of was to become a living reality: "the flesh of Christ, which we today also adore in the mysteries [the Sacrament], and which the apostles adored in the Lord Jesus, as we have said above."56 This big change was not caused by general speculation about the divine and the human and their relationship to each other, nor by a religious need, but (like the change in the question of justification) by a careful, exegetical study of a Bible verse. We find here an interesting parallel to the Reformation discovery of justification as far as the techniques of exegesis are concerned. In both cases, Luther succeeds in freeing himself from the traditional, philosophical interpretation of single words; righteousness in the one case, form in the other. Around the latter word the revived Cyrillian Christology is developed. Luther realizes that form of God in Phil. 2 ("being in the form of God") does not refer to the divine nature as such, but to the divine attributes in which Jesus' human nature rested, but which He did not fully employ during His state of humiliation in order to make the work of redemption possible.57 This means also that the humanity of Christ is the iron which can be made to glow in the fire of the Godhead unto freedom from suffering and death, the iron which lets divine power be exercised by the human nature in miracles also during the time of humiliation. This is the one, inseparable "I" speaking and acting in the New Testament.

In 1526 Luther consciously and expressly draws the conclusion that the human nature of Christ is like His divine nature, omnipresent.58 At this point we should mention that the usual term for this, ubiquity, does not occur in Luther's writings. It is an invective used by later opponents of Luther's teaching. It was normally rejected by Luther's followers as an offensive word. For a variety of reasons, it seems reasonable not to use it here. No matter what may be said about the terminology, what is important is to determine what Luther means when he speaks of the omnipresence of the body of Christ. This does not mean the last stage in a change in Christ's humanity conditioned by the history of salvation so that His humanity, after the materiality of earthly life, is replaced by the resurrection body of the forty days, which in turn is surpassed by the deification of the ascension, whereafter perhaps the day of judgment may reawaken the concrete conditions of earthly life when He comes again visibly in the skies. For Luther the omnipresence of the body of Christ means instead that the body of Christ took God's superworldly relation to every point of creation already in the womb of Mary. Now Christ's human nature is, from the womb on, higher and deeper in God and before God than any angel.59 Yea, he says, Christ was in heaven when He was still walking on earth.60 Luther explicitly rejects the idea that the ascension meant that omnipresence ought to be ascribed to Christ because of that event: "For by His glorification He did not become another person, but He is present everywhere as He was before and always has been since."61 Behind the notion of two alternating forms of existence of the body of Christ probably lies the idea that the omnipresence would imply a physical change of the body of Christ, a peculiar diffusion of matter into an infinity, conceived physically:

Here you will say: would Christ's humanity be extended and roll out like a hide? . . . I answer: in accordance with your darkened mind which comprehends the . . . bodily, comprehensible way, you will not understand this; neither do the enthusiasts, who have no other thought than that the Godhead is omnipresent in a bodily, comprehensible fashion as if God were a big, extended thing extending all through creation.62
It is consequently the concrete, physical body of Christ, the same body as before and after the ascension, that takes God's immediate relation to His creation. Only a confused, unclear thinking operating with naive physical categories has difficulties as concern the relation between Creator and the created. In order to explain what is at issue, Luther adopts a quotation from Augustine: "All things are in Him rather than that He is anywhere in them,"63 and writes: "They [the things] do not measure or encompass Him, but it is rather that He has them present before Himself, measures them and encompasses them."64 In the child Jesus sleeping in Mary's lap rests all creation, and the galaxies meet in a human being: "Him whom the world cannot comprehend, Mary found upon her lap."65

This proves drastically the untenability of the axiom which lies behind the modern interpretation of the Chalcedon creed. The deification of Jesus' body is consistent with Jesus' full humanity. Cyrillian Christology does not indeed burn up Jesus' human nature, at the latest, with His ascension into the fire of the Godhead, diluting it into hovering smoke. Cyrillian, Lutheran Christology counts on a normal humanity, which, while retaining its given created concretion, assumes the role as the center of everything and the ruler of all, the object of all adoration. All of creation flows into a genuine human being who really suffers and dies on the cross, but what He dies is God's immortal death. Of this Jesus Luther says: "For since Jesus is one with God, you must put this His essence far, far outside of creation, as far outside as God is outside, but on the other hand, so deeply within creation and as close to it as God is in His creation."66

Thereby we have reached the stage in our presentation at which we must explain in what way the insight described here constitutes a part of the Lutheran teaching on the Sacrament of the Altar, and in what way it is not a part thereof. First and foremost it must be stated that Lutheran Christology lays claim to being Biblical dogma in the pregnant sense of the word. We are not dealing with an extra-biblical speculation but with a central proposition of Holy Scripture. At the same time it must be stated just as clearly that this dogma has the character of a merely auxiliary construction as far as the exposition of the doctrine of the Lords Supper is concerned. Its role in the presentation of the meaning of the Sacrament of the Altar is entirely due to historical factors. Here we must consider Luther's polemical situation. Zwingli, his chief opponent, denied the very possibility that a body could exist at once in many places. This denial was directed against the possibility of the sacramental presence of the body and blood of Christ, since such presence necessarily presupposes that the presence is equipped in such a miraculous way. According to the doctrine of the Real Presence, the body of Christ is at one and the same time present in its entirely in every single host on the altar as well as in every part of each host. And masses are celebrated at the same time in many different places. When Zwingli declares that this is impossible and that it is incompatible with the natural existence of the body of Christ, Luther takes it upon himself to prove that something similar does exist in another case. If he succeeds with that proof, Zwingli's objection must fall to the ground. (For Luther it is indeed true that the divine omnipotence cannot be limited, even if there is no parallel. If he could not find a parallel, this would not be any proof against the Real Presence and Zwingli would not win anyway.) Luther now points to the omnipresence of the body of Christ; hence at one and the same time Christ's body is present in different places. This condition contains the possibility of sacramental presence at masses celebrated simultaneously: if the one way is possible, so is the other.

This has led some people to draw a conclusion (entirely foreign to Luther) that the sacramental presence coincides with the omnipresence. The delight with which this identification has sometimes been accepted and taught, indubitably conceals the desire to flee from the reality of the sacramental presence. All of a sudden a way out seems to have been found, so that the denier of the Sacrament can proclaim--apparently on entirely legitimate grounds and within a convincing frame of orthodoxy--that the host on the altar is as much Christs body as the egg on his breakfast table at home. Theologians devoted to the Real Presence have in like manner felt compelled to express regret about the fact that Luther stressed the omnipresence so much and that this threatened to empty the Real Presence of its reality. In actual fact Luther renders exact accounts, differentiating between different types of presence that ought not be confused. The Latin terms and concepts which Luther borrows from medieval scholasticism should not lead anyone to believe that Luther is operating here with artificial, un-biblical ideas. The auxiliary service of the various terms employed is not unlike the service rendered by words like "nature" and "person" within Christology. These explanations by Luther were quite naturally taken over by the Lutheran Confessions, where anyone can easily study them.67 Luther reckons with at least three types of presence of the one, unchanged, physical natural body of Christ. The first type of presence is the way in which bodies ordinarily exist and it is called circumscriptive. The second is termed diffinitive, and it covers, e.g., the presence of the body of Christ in the bread of the Sacrament of the Altar. We have already touched upon its peculiarity: it is a question of a real presence in the consecrated, visible elements, but in such a way that the whole is in every part (totum in parte) at the same time. These precise concepts are not taken up at random. They take their point of departure from the fact that Christ made the words "This is my body" valid for every single recipient of the Sacrament: for everyone individually, undivided.68 If the circumscriptive manner of presence were to be applied to the Sacrament, Christ would be divided up, crushed in pieces and devoured like other food--this is exactly that of which the deniers of the Sacrament accuse the adherents of the Real Presence. That is the reason why Luther spontaneously goes back to the medieval teaching concerning the diffinitive form of presence, and in doing so he speaks of the holy Church under the Papacy, which sang the proud, splendid words penned by Thomas Aquinas in the mass of the Feast of Corpus Christi: Sumit unus, sumunt millo, quantum iste, tantum ille nec sumtus absumitur, ("whether one or thousands eat, All receive the selfsame meat, Nor the less for others leave").69 In this form of the presence, a false, useless speculation does not speak, but faith, receiving the miracle. The third form of presence is the omnipresence of the body of Christ, called repletive, the celestial, unsearchable presence. It cannot at all be comprehended or understood even by the angels,70 and can most certainly not be tasted by mouth and tongue in earthly matter. This presence is infinitely more wonderful71. Here it is not a question of Christ's presence in the things, but their presence in Him. Luther determines that there is a unprecedented difference between the diffinitive and the repletive modes of presence: "that the body of Christ has a much higher and more supernatural essence when it is one person with God than it had when it was in the sealed stone and the door...for the other way in which the body of Christ was in the stone, all saints will also possess in heaven."72 (The other way at the Easter miracle--His going through the closed stone and the closed door--is, as Luther always points out, the same as in the Sacrament of the Altar.) Touching Christ's body with one's hands and mouth in His relation to creation is as impossible as grasping the Godhead itself. Thus when Luther says, "There is a difference between His [omni-]presence and your grasping [Him in the Sacrament],"73 he is not, indeed, operating with modern existentialistic interpretations, in which the subjective experience for me merely gives an immediate importance to something generally given. Luther stood here on the foundation of the Biblical teaching concerning the Creator's exaltedness and incomprehensibility, and at the same time on the foundation of the Biblical teaching on how we in the Sacrament truly eat and drink the body and blood of the Son of Man.

Consideration must be given to the fact that the definitions circumscriptive, diffinitive, and repletive reckon with genuine, constitutive differences. The omnipresence must absolutely not be understood as the spread out hide, as circumscriptive infinity, thought physically. It is equally impermissible to interpret the sacramental presence as circumscriptive presence, since communion would then break the body of Christ in pieces. These two essential differences between repletive-circumscriptive and diffinitive-circumscriptive correspond to the difference between repletive and diffinitive. Contending that the presence is actually always the same, and thus putting together what revelation has put asunder, is a false schematism that wants to explain the incomprehensible using a single formula, and that is unwilling to let the ways of God be manifold.


55 Concordia Triglotta, 1129 (Catalog of Testimonies).

56 Concordia Triglotta, 1127.

57 WA 2:147.38ff.(LW 31:301).

58 WA 19:491.17ff. (LW 36:342).

59 WA 26:344.28ff. (LW 37:232).

60 WA 26:343.36f. (LW 37:232).

61 WA 23:147.31ff. (LW 37:66).

62 WA 26:333.26ff. (LW 37:219f.).

63 Patrologia latina 40:15.

64 WA 26:336.13f. (LW 37:223).

65 WA 35:434.12f. (LW 53:241), Swedish Hymnal 62, v. 3.

66 WA 26:336.15f.( LW 37:223); Tappert, 587 (SD VII.101).

67 Tappert, 586 (SD VII.98-103).

68 WA 54:145.30 (LW 38:293).

69 WA 54:145.31f., 146.3f.; Eng. trans. in St Andrew Bible Missal, 654 (LW 38:293).

70 WA 26:336.22 (LW 37:223).

71 WA 26:336.13 (LW 37:223).

72 WA 26:335.9ff. (LW 37:222).

73 WA 23:151.3f. (LW 37:68).


IV. The Sacrament Means That Real Bread Is The Body Of Christ

The current discussion about the content of the Lord's Supper has usually centered on the word "is" in "This is my body." The Lutheran "is"--in Latin est--has thus become an established concept. Nowadays we hardly even encounter any debate concerning the "This", despite the fact that at this very point we find one of Luther's most important contributions to the right understanding of the Sacrament. In fact, it would be entirely appropriate to speak of the Lutheran "this." Medieval scholasticism also posed the question as to what "This" in Jesus' words, "This is my body", referred to. The answer given was that "this" referred to Christ's body. Behind this answer lies the requirement of school philosophy in those days that "is" must really mean "is" and that subject and predicate must really be identical. Jesus' words at the first celebration must thus mean: My body is my body. Luther goes against all exegesis of this philosophical type. Luther lets the text speak, and according to the text Jesus took visible bread in His hands and let the word "This" refer to that very bread: "[I] stick simply to His words and firmly believe that Christ's body is not only in the bread, but that the bread is the body of Christ."74 In a decisive point, this surpasses scholastic theology. It is no longer a matter of tying a presence of Christ to the host in one way or another, or of expressing a presence of one thing in another. Instead, Luther says that the earthly bread in the hands of Jesus and in the hands of the celebrant is the body of Christ; and he cites a parallel that was shocking in his day: This man is God. Just as the man Jesus is God, the bread is the body of Christ. This seems to be close to a deification of the bread. On top of this, Luther employs the illustration of glowing iron, the old illustration which was used to express how Jesus' humanity participates in the power of the Godhead.

The scandal this gave rise to was great. The adherents of the doctrine of transubstantiation had let the bread be destroyed in obedience to scholastic logic in order that Jesus' words, "My body is my body", might be true. In doing so, one had avoided putting the created bread into any kind of relation to Christ's holy body. The opposition which the Roman theologians directed against Luther is thus not by any means the kind of opposition the modern Christian, inspired by Protestant-Reformed thinking, would like to imagine. No one accuses Luther of wanting to make the Sacrament vanish in a spiritual direction when he denied transubstantiation and said that bread remained. On the contrary, Luther is accused of an inadmissible materialization of the divine: he mixed earthly and divine with each other.75 His Reformed adversaries chime in and, from their point of view, find that Rome's teaching is more tolerable than Luther's.76 Yea, if the Swiss reformers are to be called Sacrament enthusiasts because they do not confess that the bread is the body of Christ, all of the Papists must be called Sacrament enthusiasts too.77

It cannot be said, however, that the Lutheran doctrine of the Sacrament of the Altar elevates the created bread to the throne of the Holy Trinity and gives the piece of bread baked by human hands the position given to the fruit of the womb of Mary at the incarnation. The accusations against Luther from the left and from the right are thus far unfair. What he wants to say is rather that Christology inter alia offers such a union between two things that one is spoken of by the other. "This man has created the stars," can be said of Jesus, although His human nature was not created at the time. The personal union between godhead and human nature nevertheless makes this statement possible. This unity of person has, of course, not arisen between Jesus' humanity and the host, but we nevertheless have the same kind of statement: "This baked bread is the saving body of Christ." This type of statement is to be found elsewhere as well. The Holy Ghost became visible at the Baptism in the Jordan according to the testimony of Scripture: Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost (John 1:33). Now it is true that the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is not visible and is not a bird; nevertheless it is true that such a unity did arise that the dove is rightly referred to as the Holy Ghost: "Therefore, it is under all circumstances rightly spoken, when one points to the bread and says: 'This is the body of Christ, and he who sees the bread sees the body of Christ,' just as John says that he saw the Holy Ghost when he saw the dove."78 The same relation exists, e.g., in the biblical apparitions of angels. The angels are invisible, incorporeal beings, but they appear to us in the form of young men, and this form of apparition is without further ado called angels.79 In everyday life the same mode of expression is used when we say of glowing iron that it is burning fire or of a purse, This is a hundred guilders.80 All of these parallels mean that although two intact materials are at hand, they have nevertheless de facto been melted into a unity, so that the one is spoken of as the other. The purse is no longer ordinary leather, it is gold-leather: "the glow of the gold, which cannot be seen, has been transmitted to the visible container, which in the eyes of the person regarding it has become the concretion of the desirable gold. Thus it holds true of the Sacrament that the host is no longer ordinary bread like bread in the oven, but flesh-bread or body-bread; it is a bread which has become one sacramental being or thing with the body of Christ."81 It is indeed true that the bread is something baked, round and thin; that the body of Christ is a human body, born of the Virgin, formed humanly in every respect, is also true. In the Sacrament, however, both become one single thing. The round, white host is the object of everyone's looking and attention, when Jesus proclaims it His holy body. This body is revealed not only in the bread, but also by the bread: he who sees the bread sees the body of Christ.82 No matter how true the physical observation of the unchanged element may be, a condition of unification has occurred and this causes the congregation to see in the chalice no longer ordinary wine like that in the cellar, but blood-wine.83

To this a comment must be added concerning the expression in, with and under,often used as a typical expression for the Lutheran concept of the Real Presence: The body of Christ is present in, with and under the bread. We find this expression only one single time in Luther's writings, and there it is used to show that this wording could in a pinch be cited as a way of denying the Real Presence.84 Compared with "This is" or "The bread is", this wording lacks precision. When the Lutheran Confessions use the wording in an affirmative sense, this is nevertheless not a falling away from Luther's doctrine on the Sacrament. It is stated clearly that this wording is secondary and dependent upon certain conditions:

In addition to the words of Christ and of St. Paul (the bread in the Lord's Supper 'is the body of Christ' or 'the communion of the blood of Christ') we at times also use the formulas 'under the bread, with the bread, in the bread. We do this to reject the papistic transubstantiation and to indicate the sacramental union between the untransformed substance of the bread and the body of Christ.
Thereby they wished to indicate that, even though they also use these different formulas, "in the bread, under the bread, with the bread", they still accept the words of Christ in their strict sense and as they read . . . . In both his Great Confession and especially his Last Confession Concerning the Communion, Dr. Luther defended with great zeal and earnestness the formula which Christ employed in the Last Supper."85 Thus, for the Confessions, "in, with and under" is only auxiliary to the proposition that the unchanged bread is the body of Christ, and that the sacramental union thus has taken place so that two unchanged elements have become one. The Confessions cannot thus be said to be guilty of a flight from the hardness of Christ's words. Soon enough, however, even within the Lutheran camp, "the bread is the body of Christ" was felt to be too obtrusive. Melanchthon could stand it only of sheer necessity. Here, as in many other points, his views soon became predominant, and the late Orthodox Lutheran theologian David Hollazius, at the end of the seventeenth century, could without hesitation write that this paradox of Luther's was not Biblical.86 The popularity enjoyed today by the expression "in, with and under" must to a considerable degree be considered part of the spiritualization to which the Real Presence has been subjected. Behind this often shimmers also the inability to defend the doctrine of the Real Presence on biblical grounds: one embraces it because the church has always taught the Real Presence, because it is Lutheran or for similar reasons. This is the reason why one likes to stick to wordings that have catechetical value ("the presence of Jesus," "the Real Presence," etc.), but do not in any way enter upon the exegetical foundations of the Sacrament.

The background furnished here is a necessary prerequisite for discussion of Luther's attitude towards transubstantiation. As shown above, Luther had to reject transubstantiation because of the unambiguous report of the Bible that Jesus, according to the evangelists and St. Paul, took bread in His hands and called that very bread His body. Nevertheless, Luther's judgment on transubstantiation is very mild: "However, the error [i.e. transubstantiation] is very unimportant as long as the body and blood of Christ and the Word are left intact."87 "It does not mean much to me, for as I have often declared openly, I do not wish to fight about it; if the wine remains or not, for me it is enough that the blood of Christ is present; may whatever God wills happen to the wine. And rather than to have mere wine with the enthusiasts I would stick to mere blood with the Papists."88 Also late in his lifetime, Luther makes use of generous statements like these,89 and what they mean is that transubstantiation is, in his eyes, a pretty indifferent matter, and it may be embraced by anyone who wishes to do so. Even if it is true that this cannot be the final thing that can be said of Luther's attitude towards transubstantiation, what can be said with certainty is that the energetic hatred against the doctrine of transubstantiation which is flourishing wildly within the churches that have descended from the Lutheran reformation is the testimony of a kind of belief in the Sacrament which is basically different from that of Luther. The cheap fear of transubstantiation fears too much an excess of presence, an excess of powerful words of consecration, an excess of genuflections and worship of a heaven which has come to earth. To such fearful guardians of a spiritual Sacrament Luther would have called out mockingly that he believed something worse than transubstantiation, indeed that what he believed in was sevenfold transubstantiation.

At the same time, Luther's writings do contain sharp words against transubstantiation. These words are, however, not an expression of the mature Luther's better insight in comparison to the uncertainty of Luther as a young man. Neither are they occasional results of fits of temper in comparison with calmer evaluations. What is at issue is instead those cases when the change of substance is defended with dangerous arguments, such as when King Henry VIII proclaims the theory that Scripture can be ambiguous so that bread need not be taken literally and that God could not be united with His unworthy creation. Against such things Luther does not spare words; the doctrine of transubstantiation defended in that way is impious and blasphemous.90 That is the way he puts it in writings of an early date. Shortly before his death, Luther again brings a similarly harsh judgment. It occurs in a passage in which he at the same time with great earnestness insists on the adoration of the Sacrament, and this proves that the Luther confronting us is not a Luther who had abandoned his concrete faith in the Sacrament. Luther says here that everything that is taught without the Word is an un-Christian lie. Without the Word there is no faith, and without faith, everything is sin. For this reason transubstantiation, even in the form of a pious sentence in the mouth of learned theologians, is lying and impiousness.91 Thus these words strike conscious speculation, both the canonized error and the private opinion nourished by the individual theologian. But they do not strike the simple lay faith in transubstantiation; this sort of faith is the one which enjoys Luther's tolerance as described above. Luther appeals to the simple faith of the medieval parishioners in the miracle of the mass, and he rejoices without restraint over the simplicity of this faith, which could not understand more of the learned distinctions than what is seen is bread and what is not seen is the adorable Christ reposing under the species of bread.92 Unconcerned about useless subtleties, the medieval congregation assembled at church believed in transubstantiation, worshipped Jesus in the host and thus embraced the same faith in the Real Presence as Luther possessed. That which conveyed to the simple people the real content of Christ's words is not subjected to the criticism which Luther voices on a higher level in accordance with what dogmatic assertion demands. This observation is corroborated by the overlooked fact that Luther never attacks transubstantiation in his sermons, which are otherwise so rich in dogmatic assertions.

The problem treated here, Luther's relation to the doctrine of transubstantiation, should not be confused with another problem which concerns pure terminology, namely the use of the word "change." Luther himself used this expression and other similar wordings as a technical term for the fact that in the mass bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.93 This does not involve a belief in any change of substance. A similar choice of words occurs in the Lutheran Confessions94 and the Lutheran theologians of the generation following Luther did not feel compelled not to speak of a change, particularly in view of the fact that the concept was at home in Christian theology long before anyone conceived of transubstantiation. Just as a blue thing can be changed into a red thing, while the thing remains, bread can be said to be changed into the body of Christ without the bread ceasing to exist. Above all, the old theologians have no feeling of fear that they might be saying something too great. Only the greatest words suit God. For this reason, Martin Chemnitz, the leading man in the completion of the Lutheran Confessions (often called the second Martin because of his role as the spiritual heir of the Reformer) says of the miracle of the mass that it is "a great, miraculous and veritably divine change" (Haec certe magna, miraculosa, et vere divina est mutatio).95


74 WA 6,:511.19ff. (LW 36:34).

75 WA 10ii:207.36ff. The accusation is raised by, e.g., Henry VIII of England, Cochlaeus, Eck and the faculty of the Sorbonne.

76 Oekolampadius in Acta Scripta publica wirtenbergicae, Tubingen 1720, 66.

77 Oekolampadius, Antwort auf Mart Luthers Bekenntnis vom Abendmahl Christi, printed in Martin Luthers Sammtliche Schriften, St. Louis, MO 1880-1920, XX:1375ff.

78 WA 26:442.29ff. (LW 37:300).

79 WA 26:441.23ff. (LW 37:298).

80 WA 26:444.4ff. (LW 37:301f.).

81 WA 26:445.10ff. (LW 37:303).

82 WA 26:442.30 (LW 37:300).

83 WA 26:445.10ff. (LW 37:303).

84 WA 26:447.24 (LW 37:306).

85 Tappert, 575 (SD VII, 35-40). Tappert's editon has been changed here to conform to the original and to the sense of the text. Tappert gives as the words of Christ "true body of Christ" and as the words of St. Paul "a participation in the body of Christ." Luther and the Confessions did not put "true" into the mouth of Christ, nor did they interpret St. Paul's words as "a participation in" but "communion of." Cf. WA 26:490 (LW 37:353, 356), where Luther says that the word "communion is the common good which many share."

86 David Hallazius, Examen Theologicum Acroamaticum, Leipzig & Stockholm 1725, 608.

87 WA 11:441.19f. (LW 36:287).

88 WA 26:462.1ff. (LW 37:317).

89 WA Br 8:3263,38ff., 10:3885.84ff.

90 WA 10ii:208.31.

91 WA 54:425.1 ff. (LW 34:355).

92 WA 6:510.20ff., 509.35ff. (LW 36:32-35).

93 Luther's terminology is described in V. Vajta, Die Theologie des Gottesdienstes bei Luther, Goettingen 1954, II:185, note 93.

94 Tappert, 179 (Ap X, 2).

95 Martin Chemnitz, Examen Concilii Tridentini, Berlin 1861, ed. Preuss, 313 (English, Examination, tr F. Kramer, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, 258).


V. The Sacrament Is Achieved By The Reading Of The Words Of Institution

To the modern Protestant, a special characteristic of the Roman priesthood and of the Roman mass is the power-laden act consisting of the reading of the words of institution, called the consecration. That which happens in the flickering light of candles and at the sound of a ringing bell is the sum of what constitutes the attractive and repulsive traits of Catholicism: the claim of divine power, extended also to material things and put into the hands of a consecrated priesthood. Already at the discussions at Marburg Castle, Zwingli, the self-elected representative of spiritual religion, threw in Luther's face the accusation that the doctrine of Lutheranism was a re-introduction of the papacy in this particular point, meaning that the whispering of the priest conjured God. This accusation has never been silenced, and much of the perturbation that has been awakened around the high church movement that has come about in various Protestant quarters, is an echo of Zwingli's protest.

Here, just as with regard to transubstantiation, it must, however, be said that Luther and his Lutheran followers go much further than the modern Protestant fears and suspects. Here as well as in other points, medieval theology was under pressure not to let the finite contain the infinite, and it was compelled to operate with limitations which made the reading of the words of institution much less powerful than is usually presumed to have been the case. The nominalistic school reckoned here, as well as elsewhere, with mere parallel events: God works from heaven in accordance with an established covenant, when the priest executes the sacramental blessing through the words of institution, which in themselves are empty and without power. The Thomistic school thought differently and wanted to acknowledge a power in the words of institution, but this power is not the divine, uncreated power which effects the Real Presence itself; it is merely a created power which functions as a subordinate tool for the process that leads to the Presence of the Sacrament. This thought goes back to the notion that Christ as a human being did not possess the power to consecrate the Sacrament with His human words; His words, too, were of necessity without divine power. Hence the ordinary priest cannot, of course, effect more than the great High Priest in His human nature, which never exercises genuine divine power.96

The same concept occurs in the Thomistic doctrine of Baptism which, it is supposed, is effected instrumentally by such a subordinate, created power. In his disputes concerning the medieval concept of sacraments, Luther bitingly terms this power krefftlina, little power.97 Luther replaces it with the power beyond all powers: God the Holy Ghost Himself. God is in the Word and He Himself works the miracle of new creation. This holds equally true of the Sacrament of the Altar. The word spoken over the created element conveys directly the uncreated, eternal power of God. A modern German scholar has rightly said about this that, with regard to the relation between the Holy Ghost and the element, Luther does not say less than, but rather outdoes medieval theology.98 When Luther reckons with a genuine, divine power in the words of institution for the Sacrament of the Altar, he does not without further reflection adopt the patterns of the Middle Ages, whose theology thus, to some extent, had a construction different from Luther's.

For other reasons, too, it is not possible to presume--as is often done--that Luther, in a routine fashion, simply took over his teaching on the effect of the words of institution as a legacy from a dark, papistic past. When attacked by Zwingli, Luther consciously and very emphatically defended the biblical teaching on consecration. It can also be said that in our day the real controversy concerning the Real Presence stands precisely at this point. It is only the consecration that ties the body and blood of Christ to bread and wine; it is the consecration that makes the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ. Without a clear teaching on the consecration it is, indeed, still possible to say that the communicants receive the body and blood of Christ and that the heavenly gift is present. But the essential thing will be missing: the fact that Christ has made bread and wine His holy body and His holy blood and commanded us to eat it. A presence alongside bread and wine need not differ from the general presence of Christ in His two natures (which includes his body and blood); this general presence is promised for every service and is constantly being received by faith. Only the consecration ties the presence to the elements and creates the Real Presence in its specific sense. Only the conscious by-passing of the stumbling-block of the consecration has made it possible to create the modern union documents which wish to reconcile the Presence and the absence of the body of Christ and which pretend to represent a higher unity between Lutheranism and the denial of the Sacrament.99

For Luther, Christ Himself entrusted the consecration to the Church in Holy Scripture.

If anyone were to say that Christ did not command us to pronounce these words "This is my body" in the Lord's Supper, Answer: It is true that it does not say in the text "You shall pronounce 'This is my body'," neither is there any hand painted pointing to it [=no NB is printed in the margin]. . . neither does it say in the text you shall pronounce "take and eat." Neither does it say "You shall take bread and bless it, etc." Let us see who would be so bold as to say that one should not take bread nor bless it nor pronounce "Take and eat." Is it not enough that He says at the end "This do in remembrance of me"? If we are to do what He did, then we must verily take bread, bless it, break it and give it and say "This is my body." For it is all included in the word of command "Do this . . ." He said that we are to pronounce the words "This is my body" in His person and name, at His command and bidding.100
Thus, when the holy words are pronounced in the person of Christ, they are not an empty phrase. In order to emphasize the wonderful power of the words, Luther employs two concepts which he originally derived from Zwingli's angry attacks on the consecration. Luther speaks of deed words and command words (Thettel-wort and heissel-wort). A deed-word is a word that describes a deed of God and does not call for action or repetition on our part, as if I were to say from Gen. 1: "Let there be sun and moon," nothing would happen.101 Command-word is a word that requires of man an action: as "thou shalt have no other gods." As regards the Lord's Supper, Luther now finds that in themselves Jesus' words at the Last Supper, "This is my body," are to be considered deed-words; they describe what Jesus did that first time: "They are deed-words, which Christ speaks the first time, and He does not lie when He says 'Take eat, this is my body, etc.,' just as sun and moon were there when He said in Gen. 1: 'Let there be sun and moon.' Thus His word is no powerless word but a word of power which creates what it says. Ps. 33[:9]: 'He commanded and it was there.'"102 The first Lord's Supper thus contained a powerful, creative word with the same power as the word that once called forth the heavenly bodies.

Through the command of Christ to Christians, "Do this," the following condition now arises: Since the deed-words are now included in the command-words, they are no longer mere deed words, but also command-words, for everything happens which they command, by virtue of the divine command-words through which they were spoken.103 The powerful deed-word in time past at the first communion has, through the command-word, "Do this" been entrusted to the Church in all times as an ever-flowing source of the realization of the Real Presence. This is Luther's doctrine of the consecration. The priest celebrating the Sacrament takes into his mouth God's own creative word and in so doing works the miracle of the mass. To this Luther adds that the other sacramental formulas (in Baptism and in Absolution) would without the divine command remain empty formulas, but become, through the divine institution which authorizes their repetition, powerful, efficacious words: "yea, even if there were a command-word that I should say to water 'this is wine,' you would see if it would not become wine."104 The Creator's right to have the disposal of His creation can in principle be transmitted to human beings without limitations, and also the so-called natural miracles lie in the extension of the thought of the power of consecration. In all of this it holds true that human action would remain empty and inefficacious, if God had not placed Himself behind the action:

Here, too, if I pronounced the words "This is my body" over all bread, nothing would happen. But when we, in accordance with His institution and command, say in the Lord's Supper, "This is my body," then it is His body, not on account of our speaking or our mighty word, but because He commanded us so to speak and to do and bound His command and His action to our words.105
This reference to the fact that the Sacrament is celebrated in the power of the first communion, which is contained in such expressions by Luther, must not be understood in such a way that the words of institution uttered in the liturgy were to be emptied of their power. Statements of this kind, which are also to be found in the Lutheran Confessions,106 are merely an indication of the origin of the vein of water. Both in Luther and in the Confessions there are parallels to the different orders of creation which now function by virtue of the words spoken in Gen. 1; these parallels, which go back to John Chrysostomos and John Damascene, are always based on the fact that, for instance, our plowing and sowing effect grain only by virtue of Gen. 1, but also on the fact that the field would of course not bear any fruit without the action of the peasant: "In like manner it happens with the Sacrament, we put together water and word, as He commands us, but this action of ours does not effect Baptism, but the command and ordinance of Christ does."107 It should be observed that all of these parallels reckon with an inserted link in between (rain and dew, plowing and sowing, the physical union in marriage) in order that Gen. 1 may reveal its power in plant life, the harvest, in issue. The divine institution is what has given our actions creative power. The relation between the first communion and our Sacrament is similar: at the first communion Jesus' creative word filled our present consecration with divine power.

Thus when in the Lutheran mass the priest utters the mighty, divine, creative words, "This is my body," the possessive adjective "my" refers to the fact that the consecrator is commissioned by Christ, is in His person. If, however, the celebrant alters Christ's commission and gives it a different meaning, he goes out of Christ's person and speaks only as a human being. Such a consecration occurs then only in the name of the priest and has become an empty action, without the decisive authorization behind it. Christ is no longer heard in the words of institution. The mere possession of the Christian pastoral office and the uttering of the words of institution thus do not guarantee a valid consecration. This powerless reciting of the words of institution on one's own takes place, according to the certain conviction of Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, on the one hand in the Roman private mass, at which the Sacrament is not distributed to any communicants; and on the other hand in the Reformed communion service, where the Real Presence is denied. The fact that the Roman private mass is excluded from the ceremonies that are sacramentally valid is usually accepted as the given consequence of the criticism launched by the Reformation. One should, however, be aware of the fact that it is not primarily the omission of the communion that makes the Roman private mass invalid. It is rather the false sense which the priest puts into the words of institution through which he reinterprets and stamps out the clear words "take and eat," that makes the consecration a purely human act. In quite another way and disturbing to many is the rejection of all celebrations of communion within the denominations to the left of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This hits also such churches which aim to be somewhat like the Lutheran church, even by rejecting a brutal, superficial denial of the Real Presence but still not confessing it as a clear and unambiguous doctrine. In this devastation, which like a wind storm drove Jesus Christ from altars previously His in many of the Western European countries, Luther saw but the beginning of the continued razing which would strike baptism, the doctrine of original sin and Christology. As a prophetic prediction, Luther's opinion about this has proved true: the Reformed heresy became in history the point of entry for Rationalism. Beyond this Luther discerned also the dissolution of worldly government by the right of revolt; for he who cannot understand the Divine Presence in the sacramental species can neither accept the fact that divine power has been given to sinful human beings. Zwingli not only made fun of the most holy Sacrament, he made fun of the titles of precedence of the German princely houses as well; in neither case could he understand how God conceals Himself in external things. In Luther's eyes the last stage of the development is that naked atheism will be born of such a superficial attitude towards the works of God.108

The rejection of the Reformed sacrament is especially clearly pronounced in Luther's letter to the Christians in Frankfurt on the Main from the year 1533. Here Luther turns against a church oriented towards a theology of mediation which in its teaching was close to that of Martin Bucer, who in time was to contribute towards the Anglican Church's taking a similar stand. The congregation in Frankfurt made every effort to remain Lutheran in outward conformity and used traditional wordings: "in the Sacrament the body which Christ means is given." They thus avoid accounting for the content of the biblical expressions and, in the event that a Lutheran guest should be misled to partake of the communion of that church, he would be deceived and not receive the true sacrament: "Now if a simple person hears this he believes that they teach as we do and goes thereupon to the Sacrament and receives nothing but bread and wine."109 This fraudulent procedure presupposes a communion that is intact as far as the externals are concerned: the words of institution are read, and bread and wine are distributed. Nevertheless, the Holy Supper of the New Testament is non-existent here. The words of institution are thus no guarantee, for by such words as theirs the words of Christ are taken away.110 The right meaning is lacking.

In Luther's Large Confession on the Sacrament of the Altar he directly raises the accusation that our enthusiasts do not consecrate.111 But at the same time, Luther reckons with the fact that the words of institution are read at the bread breaking ceremonies of the enthusiasts. Ridiculing them he says that they might just as well sing an ascension hymn (in order to express more clearly the Real Absence). Hence what is lacking is not the words, but the right meaning. At the end of the Large Confession, we find Luther's spiritual will and testament with a short explanation of the main data of the faith, and there it is said that the Sacrament is valid regardless of the priest: "For it is not based on the faith or unbelief of human beings but on God's word and institution. If only one does not undertake first to change and misinterpret God's word and institution, as the present enemies of the Sacrament do. These have indeed mere common bread and wine, for they have neither God's word nor His institution but they have turned and changed these in accordance with their own imagination."112 What is referred to is thus not an external, ritual happening which in some way has been maimed, but the Reformed doctrine on the Sacrament which changes the meaning of the words of Christ so that nothing remains of them but an empty shell, the mere articulation. This demarcation in Luther's testament on the question of the validity of the Sacrament has been taken into the Lutheran Confessions.113 This rejection involves, however, only such cases where the priest in his preaching denies or at least does not clearly teach the Real Presence. On the other hand the priest whose teaching is orthodox, but who is secretly Reformed in his heart, still consecrates in the person of Christ, but as soon as he professes his error as to the Sacrament, he cannot effect a Sacrament.114

Thus for Luther there does not exist any unarticulated, religious, Christian Word in general. For him the Biblicism which in principle lets the word of the Bible replace a dogmatic examination of the meaning of the words is an expression of Satanic intellectual laziness. Confronted by wordings such as "the body that Christ means"--real or symbolic, present or absent--Luther writes: "Where there are such preachers, they do not need the Scripture and studying any more, for they can say in all points: Dear people, be now satisfied, believe what Christ means, that is enough. Who would not want to be one of their disciples?"115 The flight from theoretical things is a flight into sin and dishonesty. We shall never get beyond the theoretical problem as to what is meant, what is taught and what is said. The Sacraments do not offer us another, allegedly deeper reality than the tangibles of the doctrine and do not open the door into the mystic in the sense of something which is not accounted for or articulated.

The biblical Sacrament of the Altar stands and falls with the consecration. It is therefore entirely natural that Luther on an occasion when a priest distributed an unconsecrated host at mass expressed his condemnation: "Let him go to his Zwinglians."116 This blasphemous procedure of daring to consider consecrated and unconsecrated hosts to be the same thing, of course resulted in extensive church discipline proceedings. Only after it was revealed that the erring country priest had acted in confusion was the threat of expatriation turned into a milder sentence of a short term in prison. That is how great the zeal of the Reformation times was for the consecration which Jesus Christ entrusted to Christians to use and to defend. Of course Luther also reckons with the necessity of using a new consecration (nachkonsekration) if the consecrated elements are insufficient and new elements must be taken in to the altar.117 It is by the retention of such things which outsiders must deem trivialities that loyalty to Christian revelation is tested and proved.


96 ST III:78, ST III:64,3.

97 WA 45:184.23.

98 Otto Hof, Taufe und Heilsverk bei Luther, Festgabe far Professor D. Peter Brunner. Zur Auferbauung des Leibes Christi, Kassel 1965, 231 with polemics against Regin Prenter, whose theology builds upon the contrary view.

99 By failing to mention the doctrine of consecration as a biblical, revelatory truth, it was possible for Peter Brunner, who is commonly counted among the defenders of the Real Presence, to be united with the deniers of the Sacrament of the modernistic-Calvinistic kind, who have produced the so-called Arnoldshainer Thesen, cf. Brunner's own words in Die dogmatische und kirchliche Bedeutung des Ertrages des Abendmahlsgesprachs i Lehrgesprach uber das heilige Abendmahl, hrsg. v. Gottfried Niemeier, Munchen 1961, 110. Also the orthodox part of American Lutheranism often shows the same deviation, concerning the meaning and importance of the consecration.

100 WA 26:287.4ff. (LW 37:187).

101 WA 26:282.20ff. (LW 37:180).

102 WA 26:283.2ff. (LW 37:181).

103 WA 26:284.1ff. (LW 37:183).

104 WA 26:284.22ff. (LW 37:183).

105 WA 26:285.13ff. (LW 37:184).

106 Tappert, 583 (SD VII.75, 76).

107 WA 38:242.4ff. (LW 38:202).

108 WA 23:69.23ff. (LW 37:16), WA30i:220.4ff. ( Tappert, 444, [LC IV.60]). The origin of the Reformed heresy is, however, the Roman modernism, in the way that Erasmus of Rotterdam is at the same time inspiring Zwingli and atheism, WA Br6:2076, WA TR 5:5670.

109 WA 30iii:559.7ff.

110 WA 26:389.14 (LW 37:260).

111 An Open Letter to Those in Frankfurt on the Main, 1533, tr. Jon D. Vieker, Concordia Journal 16:4 (October 1990) 335.4.

112 WA 30iii:564.6ff. (Vieker, 340.18). WA 26:506.25ff. (LW 37:367).

113 Tappert, 574f. (SD VII.32).

114 WA TR 4:5184.5ff.

115 WA 30iii:562.14ff. (Vieker, 338.14).

116 WA Br 11:4186.8.

117 WA Br 10:3762.18ff. It is very misleading, when present Swedish theological training makes the students believe that Luther did not demand nachkonsekration. Ragnar Holte, in 1962, rightly said about this: "Such a statement testifies to a feeble insight into (I hope not lack of respect for?) historical facts," "Luthersk nattvardslara in ljuset av nyare exegetik och patristik" in Valsignelsens kalk edited by Eric Segelberg, Saltsjobaden 1962, 81, note 10.


VI. The Sacrament Is The Body And Blood Of Christ--Not The Whole Christ

Perhaps this particular point may be considered especially unspiritual and unworthy, so that the analysis of the compass of the Real Presence appears like a playground for theologians with sticky fingers who push their way into areas that ought to be too holy for speculative thought. This suspicion is not necessarily unfounded, and this very fact makes it necessary to point out very exactly the limitations that are set for our thoughts and words.

As late as the eleventh century it was said within Latin Christendom, in connection with Christ's own words, that the content of the sacramental gift was the body and blood of Christ, while the reception of the whole Christ was to be the result of the communicants being incited by the Sacrament to strive after the spiritual life which is Christ in His divinity and His humanity. This reflects the old conviction that the Sacrament is best defined by Christ Himself who said only: This is my body, This is my blood. The partaking of the whole Christ is one of the promises which is also apart from the Sacrament and is directed to faith: We shall come unto him and make our abode with him (John 14:23).

Medieval scholasticism, which reached its climax in the thirteenth century, took this later reality into the theology of the Sacrament itself. Through concomitance (in Latin, per concomitantiam) Christ's divinity is also in the elements according to Thomas Aquinas, for His divinity and humanity can never be separated. This proposition appears to be biblical and reasonable. Nevertheless, within the Ockhamist school we find the beginnings of a denial of this proposition. The background of this protest seems to be that it was feared that such wording could be construed to mean that, just as Christ's body takes a real place in the consecrated host, the omnipresent Godhead would be thought of as inscribed in space. In Luther, who evidently follows up the Ockhamistic argumentation here, this is worded very graphically: "Let the hairsplitters and the faithless sophists search for such unsearchable things and conjure the divinity into the sacrament."118 Hence nothing may be allowed to suggest the idea that the immovable, omnipresent God is concentrated to a point of creation by virtue of the consecration. The body of Christ can indeed have both of these relationships, omnipresence and a particular presence in Palestine, presence in heaven and presence in the Sacrament. However, the Godhead remains in eternity the one with whom is not variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17). This is not only the insight of philosophers but also that of the Reformers and of all classical Christian theology. That God became man, that He came down from heaven, etc., has of course never meant a change of such a kind that the divinity was contracted to the point where Jesus' body was. What happened in the womb of Mary at the moment of the annunciation is rather that the human soul and body of Jesus were lifted up into the person of the Eternal Word and possessed in it God's relation to creation. The divine nature is not changed; the new thing that happens happens to the human nature. The concentration which occurs is that it can be said of this human being alone that He is God. All of the great Christian theologians have been in agreement about the fact that also prior to the incarnation, the Godhead was present in the Virgin's womb as He is present everywhere in all space; the Godhead did not have to go to Mary. "The body...born of Mary" ("Gott sei gelobet," The Lutheran Hymnal, 313) went instead into the Godhead.

This orthodox understanding of the meaning of the incarnation makes it possible in principle to give the word concomitance a meaning that is acceptable. Then concomitance would only mean that the miracle of the incarnation is indissoluble and inerasable, that the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament rests in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as also in Palestine and in heaven. The divinity of Christ in its invariable omnipresence, of course, draws nigh in the Sacrament in the same way as it could walk into a Jewish home through the door of the house at the beginning of our calendar by virtue of the personal union. This personal union means that just as Christ was crucified when the body of Christ was nailed to the cross, it is in like manner correct to teach that Christ rests upon the altar on which His body lies, yea, that the Godhead is grasped by the hands of the celebrant when the body of God is consecrated and distributed. Nevertheless, it is not a question of a divinity which has been conjured into the Sacrament.

Most basically the problem with concomitance is that the formulation and dogmatization of this teaching in the medieval church gave it the character of saying more than the fundamental Christological dogma of the inseparable union of the two natures. In order to render meaningful the doctrine accepted by the church, human thought seemed to be directed to operate with categories which threatened the exaltedness of the Godhead. Concomitance does not become reasonable and acceptable until the insight is gained that this teaching is unnecessary and meaningless. It is a well-known fact that this teaching was in time used as a defense for the custom of distributing only the body of Christ to the communicants at mass. The argumentation used by the Roman Church in order to preserve this usage119 does not in principle depart from the concomitance of the Godhead: here it is only a question of the presence of the blood of Christ in the body of Christ, so that the latter is thought to give the gifts of both species in one of them. For Luther the essential thing here is that he rejects the notion that the clear order of Scripture may be abrogated, even if this argumentation were correct: Even if it were true that as much is included under one form as under both, yet administration in one form is not the whole order and institution as it was established and commanded by Christ.120 Luther's way of arguing here is directed against the idea that religious needs are a norm for how the Church should read Scripture. Even if the communicant were to receive the gifts of both species in one, it is still clear that he would not have received the whole institution of Christ. This is the decisive issue. The argument of the concomitance of the Godhead has here, too, a certain parallel validity. For Lutherans, too, it is clear that the body and blood are no longer separated as they were in death--just as little as divinity and humanity were ever separated in Christ. The resurrected Christ took his life back again. In order to counter the accusation of a dead, bloodless body of Christ in the mass, the Lutheran Confessions write: "We are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that death no longer has dominion over him(Romans 6:9)."121 This does not, however, prevent the special sacramental presence (with its special sacramental form of existence) from being extended only to hold true of what Christ says the bread and the wine are respectively. This does not mean that the Lamb is slaughtered again before the face of the Father in such a way that body and blood are separated. The exalted Lamb freely exercises His freedom to let His body alone be present under the bread and His blood alone be present under the wine. Their union in the resurrected life in the face of the Father does not form an obstacle to different elements being consecrated to convey them to the Church here on earth. Luther says about this: "Who has commanded us to put more into the Sacrament than what is given by the clear and plain words of Christ? Who has made you certain that this conclusion [the concomitance] is true? How do you know what God can do?"122

Nowadays the wording "the whole Christ" usually occurs in a frame entirely different from that of medieval scholasticism. The formula "the whole Christ" has a great attraction for modern theology, which would like to dispense with the Real Presence. "The whole Christ" is the presence of grace in the Word, given to faith, and the presence which is true of every service: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Since the words of institution are a part of the preaching of the Word and are not only consecrating, and since the distribution is often accompanied by so-called words of distribution, it is always possible to let the Word's conveyance of the general presence treacherously replace the sacramental presence constituted by the fact that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. Already in Melanchthon's interpretation of the words of institution, Bible words about the general presence started getting mixed in, and the whole Christ was formulated as a rejection of the Lutheran wording, the body and blood of Christ. This tradition, which lays claim to the exclusive title of satisfying the needs of piety for a personal meeting with God, was handed down by Melanchthon's followers, the old and new Philippists within the Pietistic, Liberal tradition. For this reason it is not unimportant to decline all turgid, pious talk about Christ and to bring all discussions about the Sacrament back to Jesus words, "This is my body."


118 WA 11:450.13ff. (LW 36:297)

119 The fact that lay people today can, in certain circumstances, receive the chalice in the Roman mass changes nothing in the controversy which has existed between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism for centuries. The controversy has always been about the question of whether the chalice has to be distributed at mass, not if it may be distributed. Even during the sixteenth century the distribution of the chalice was admitted in some places within the Church of Rome. It is typical of a superficial way of looking at things to conclude from a liturgical similarity, which has appeared now, that the doctrinal controversy has been settled.

120 WA 50:242.17ff. Tappert, 311f (SA III/VI.3).

121 Tappert, 180 (Ap X.4).

122 WA 26:606ff.


VII. The Sacrament Is Adorable And Extended In Time

Although Latin Christology as early as in the twelfth century generally denied that the body of Christ was adorable, the sacramental adoration in the mass nevertheless remained established during the Middle Ages. It was given a threadbare theoretical motivation by the fact that the adoration could be said to be directed to the Godhead that was present in the Sacrament by concomitance. Not until the Lutheran Reformation returned to Cyrillian Christology did the adoration of the Sacrament again receive its natural motivation. The human nature of Christ participates in the attributes of the divine nature and receives without any limitations joyous adoration from the congregation celebrating mass. The scholastic wall of separation between the Creator and His humanity has fallen. That Luther himself practiced, taught and defended the adoration of the Sacrament is a fact that is almost unanimously confirmed by research scholars; albeit the fact is often lamented. What is not known is the fact that Lutheranism engaged in a controversy over this question up until the time the Lutheran confessional writings were finally completed, and that the feast of the victory of genuine Lutheranism over Philippism was celebrated in one of the German principalities with prayers for the preservation of the doctrine of justification and the doctrine of the adoration of the Sacrament.123 One of the co-authors of the Formula of Concord took his doctorate with a disputation on, among other things, the adoration of the Sacrament, and this disputation took place in the presence of another one of the co-authors of the Book of Concord.124 Of course, this was never meant as an attempt to conceal the nature of the Sacrament as a means of grace, its attribute of being first and foremost a gift of God to man. However, with this the role of the Sacrament had never been exhausted; rather, a spring had been found which gave rise to praise and thanksgiving as well.

In a special book entitled Concerning the Adoration of the Sacrament, Luther examined very carefully the adoration of the Sacrament. The adoration may, according to Luther, be executed in an outward and an inward way. The outward way consists of kneeling, genuflecting and bowing. Luther knows that such conduct has its counterpart in the court ceremony in the presence of princes and that it is thus not reserved exclusively for the King of Kings in the Sacrament of the Altar. The inward adoration which must be added to make the adoration Christian is a veneration or bowing of the heart, through which you from the bottom of your heart confess and show that you are His obedient creation. This inward adoration presupposes saving faith: the hearty trust and the confidence of the true living faith.125 It can even be considered the highest work of faith towards God.126 In itself this worshipping of the Creator can also occur outside of the Sacrament and without any special outward gestures. Man can be overwhelmed by God anywhere.

This adoration of the Sacrament is designated by Luther as an adiaphoron that can be practiced but need not be. This does not mean that Luther would in any sense allow anyone to proclaim openly that the adoration is inadmissible. He who believes what one ought to believe, as has been proven here, can indeed not deny the body and blood of Christ his veneration without committing a sin.127 However since the time has not yet come when the Christians only task will be to worship God, what is of immediate importance is that adoration occur when there is time and opportunity.128 The apostles, e.g., remained seated at the first celebration of the Lord's Supper, forgetting both the adoration and the reverence.129 This is due to the fact that the words teach you to pay attention and to find out why Christ is there and cause you to forget your own works and only wait for His works.130 Just as when one hears the Gospel, God's Word, to which belongs the highest honor, because God is closer in it than Christ is in the bread and wine, yet one forgets to bow before it and sits still and does not think about how one is to show it honor.131 This is the alternative to adoration: faith busy with the forgiveness of sins that is contained in the body and blood of Christ and proclaimed in the words of institution.

Luther then divides the communicants into four groups as regards the adoration of the Sacrament. The first group acts as the apostles did at the first celebration and clings to faith in the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the words of institution, omitting the adoration: These are the most secure and the best.132 The second group consists of those who exercised in this faith advance to their own deeds and adore Christ spiritually in the Sacrament, i.e., in the depths of their hearts they bow before Him and acknowledge Him as their Lord who works everything in them and outwardly they bend and bow and fall on their knees with their bodies in order to prove their inward adoration.133 The third group consists of those who adore without any outward gestures. The fourth group adores with gestures only, and that is hypocrisy. Luther showed how this happens under the Papacy, where, since there is no enlightenment through the Word to create faith, there is only an outward, human veneration, to the disgrace of Christ.134 Summarizing, Luther says,

Nevertheless you see that it is not without danger to adore this Sacrament where the Word and faith are not urged, so that I would almost contend that it would be better not to adore, as in the case of the apostles, as is customary with us. Not that it might be wrong to adore, but in the former case the danger is less than in the latter that nature will easily rely on its own works and let God's works remain without consideration, and this the Sacrament cannot tolerate. But what more shall I say? There must be Christians to use the Sacrament to do the works of God. Where there are not any, it will be wrong whether they adore or not.135
In other words, everything that is to occur requires true Christian faith, and wherever there is none, everything will be awry. Hence adoration is really no more risky than all other works; there is always a risk that these, too, may be taken into the service of self-righteousness. What Luther almost thinks, is to be taken as a warning against letting the Sacrament become a splendid liturgical pageant that drowns its character as a means of grace. The historical explanation is the Roman sacramental practice which was separated from the Word and justification, profaning the Sacrament of the Church in the streets and squares, to the entertainment of the ignorant masses, not even understanding in the sanctuary what Christ's innermost intention in the Sacrament was.

It is by no means unimportant to underscore that Luther does not make justification by faith into a narrow, regulative compulsory principle which dictates what the communicant is allowed to do. Certainly Christ was not on earth to be served but to serve, but He never rejected faith's spontaneous adoration which came from the three kings at the cradle, the blind and many others.136 Justification by faith and the conveying of grace in the Sacrament are to qualify the Christian action in the Sacrament through giving the gift of the Spirit, but they do not become a pedantic pointing out of what a Christian may or may not do. If you rightly practice faith in the first point, namely belief in the words, the adoration of the Sacrament will easily follow by itself, and if it does not follow, this would not be a sin.137 Here the freedom of the Christian reigns.

However, it must be added that the very concept of faith itself as used by Luther tends to include an element of adoration. Faith means a trust in the fact that Christ has overcome guilt in His assumed human nature, faith is the right adoration, my believing that His body and blood are present, given and shed for me.138 In the face of the slaughtered Lamb of God under the species of the Sacrament, the Christian stands overwhelmed and puts his trust in that only which is the source of all salvation. This trust which considers the body and blood of Christ to be the greatest gift of God is in itself adoration, not because it gives rise to thanksgiving and adoration as ensuing effects, but because it itself gives God His greatest homage: faith in His forgivng omnipotence in the sacrifice of the new covenant.

Just a few months before his death, Luther still proclaims his spontaneous and unrestrained confession to the adoration of the Sacrament: "In the venerable Sacrament of the Altar, which one is to worship with all honor, the natural body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is veritably given and received, both by the worthy and the unworthy."139 The words "is to" can hardly be intended to abrogate what was said above concerning the communicants freedom to act in accordance with whatever his devotion bids him to do. Luther's wording is, despite its pointedness, actually completely self-evident. Also that faith, which devotes itself entirely to the miracle of the forgiveness of sins in the sacrifice of Calvary which is proffered, realizes that it is receiving the adorable Savior in the host and in the wine and would not in any way wish to deny that all adoration, praise and honor are due Jesus in His Sacrament. Particularly in view of the fact that this adoration is attacked by those people who deny the miracle of the Presence, the free ceremony spontaneously becomes a necessity, and professing the Real Presence thus procures for itself the desirable profile through the words about the adorable Sacrament, described in Latin by Luther's own pen as eucharistia venerabilis & adorabilis.

Ever since the high Middle Ages, adoration had within Latin Christendom been in a special sense combined with the elevation, the priests' lifting up, first, the consecrated wafer, and then the consecrated chalice. For centuries a powerful wave of prayers and thanksgivings have streamed forth to the Eucharistic Savior thus elevated. Luther personally put himself in this tradition without any misgivings, and the two princely brothers, the Princes of Anhalt, who themselves worshiped the Sacrament, are witnesses to Luther's behavior at mass: "We have seen Luther throw himself on the floor with earnest and with reverence and worship Christ when the Sacrament was elevated."140 In both of his orders for the mass Luther retains the elevation. In the simpler form, the Deutsche Messe, the elevation is carried out during the German Sanctus, which is printed in The Lutheran Hymnal under the title "Isaiah Mighty Seer, in Days of Old." In this majestic hymn, which closes with the words, "The beams and lintels trembled at the cry, And clouds of smoke enwrapped the throne on high," the conviction is expressed that the city church of Wittenberg is the site of the same revelation of the Lord Sabbaoth as was the temple of Jerusalem. "We retain the elevation for the sake of the Sanctus of Isaiah, for this is well in accord with the elevation. For it praises in song His sitting on the throne and His ruling."141

The abolition of the elevation in Wittenberg in 1542 is not Luther's doing.142 Of course, Luther had never considered the elevation a necessity--the rite was at the time hardly 300 years old--and under certain premises he could both accept and defend its abolition. Soon, however, there are testimonies to the effect that Luther thought that the abolition of elevation had lessened the authority of the Sacrament.143 Luther himself writes: "And if the time perhaps comes someday which gives reason to elevate [the Sacrament], it is free and without peril to elevate again."144 "If it comes to the point that the elevation becomes necessary again in order to avoid heresy or other things, we shall establish it again."145 When the Lutheran Confessions speak of the freedom to re-establish certain ceremonies which have been abolished146 it was, as should be noted, the intention of one of the co-authors, Nicolaus Selneccer, that this refer precisely to the freedom to re-establish the elevation in accordance with the words of Luther quoted above.147 The resistance which the elevation runs up against nowadays confirms very much its necessity, and the fact that the time about which Luther and Selneccer spoke has now come. The rejection of the elevated Sacrament generally proves to be a flight from the Real Presence, the power of the consecration and the demands of objective religion to remain independent from the pious human subject.

As was shown in the chapter on consecration (Chapter V), the spoken, divine Word effects the presence: therewith it is also stated that no time can be inserted between the uttering of the words and their fulfillment: "For as soon as Christ says, 'This is my body,' His body is there through the word and in the power of the Holy Ghost; if the word is not there, it is ordinary bread, but if the word is added, the words effect that about which they speak."148 Considering the parallel drawn by Luther several times between the consecration and the creative words in the first chapter of the Bible, we may very well say that he leaves as little delay for the truth of the words of the Sacrament as he would admit that the power of the words of creation would be made compatible with waiting for millions of years for the completion of the work of creation. In both cases we are confronted with the irresistible words, "He bid and it stood there" (Psalm 33:9).

The reality which flows forth from God's creative words cannot lightly be made to cease merely because the communicants have completed their communion. In two extensive letters to Simon Wolferinus, Luther attacks that man's teaching and practice according to which the presence ceased with the communion itself, for which reason the priest could without reproach mix consecrated and unconsecrated elements after mass. This error cast unhappy shadows over Luther's old age, and Wolferinus is to be considered equivalent to a Zwinglian. Of course Luther does not wish to claim here that the bread carried around in the Roman sacramental procession or the bread reserved in the sacramental tabernacle was a valid Sacrament, the true body of Christ. Such things are outside the institution of Christ, which speaks of a meal. Within this meal, which is the mass, the Sacrament is, however, a sacrament with all the consequences of this fact. The meal of Christ lasts until all have received the Sacrament, drunk of the chalice and eaten up the pieces of bread.149 What remains after the end of the communion (reliqua or reliquiae) is therefore consecrated by Christ to be His holy body and blood and is to be received carefully and with reverence by the priest or another person as Sacrament. For Luther it is thus a dogmatic demand that in the mass everything that has been consecrated is to be consumed. This abolished both the possibility of the Roman abuse of carrying the host from the altar as a Sacrament and the possibility of the Protestant abuse of treating the remaining elements as mere bread and wine. These two Luther letters were quoted diligently by the following generation of Gnesio-Lutherans. Evidently the Lutheran Confessions, too, refer to these letters in the discussion about the extension of the Sacrament in time, although the fact that the reference to the page number was omitted hence made this reference somewhat unclear.150

We are also in possession of historical sources which show clearly that the remaining elements were consumed in the Lutheran churches of those days so that nothing was left over.151 Likewise we know that in Electoral Saxony, Luther's own country, wine was used for rinsing the chalice, i.e., unconsecrated wine was poured into the empty chalice in order to remove every trace of the holy thing that had been contained therein.152 It may be assumed that the peculiarly Lutheran custom of the celebrants often communing last was due to the concern for the consecrated elements. The priest can then without its being noticed carry out the complete consumption, and he is thus not dependent upon the last communicants who may have difficulty in judging when they should render assistance in this way.153

As was already emphasized above, this teaching and this way of doing things does not in any way mean that the Roman customs of the sacramental procession and the tabernacle are rendered legitimate. On the contrary, they are now rendered completely impossible. Every attempt to take the presence out of the meal is in any event combined with uncertainty and doubt, and nothing that is not absolutely certain is to be believed at all. Thus, if in the Lutheran mass by an accident or, as was the case with Wolferinus, by an intentional, dogmatically objectionable procedure, the elements are put outside the use (extra usum), they lose their Biblical significance. What should be done with such elements depends entirely on the judgment of the individual. Luther himself suggested that they should be burned. On the basis of Luther's views on such matters, one may say that such occurrences are so deeply disturbing for the sincere faith in the mystery of the Sacrament of the Altar that they ought not become known when and if they occur. Normal discharge of the pastoral office does not ordinarily need to be confronted with any such problems. To consecrate such a large quantity of wine that it cannot reasonably be consumed is a sign of grave disorderliness and unwillingness to go to the trouble of finding out the number of communicants, which for Luther is an almost necessary prerequisite for the celebration of the mass, motivated already by the general church discipline practiced in connection with communion. Letting the elements remain undistributed the way Wolferinus did passes the borders of what is merely disorderly and is given a worse appellation: "I believe that you are operating with Zwinglis insanities."154

When Luther in this way draws borderlines between himself and what is outside of the use, he is not drawing borderlines within the action commanded by Christ, from the consecration to the distribution of the last particle and the last drop. If, within the mass commanded by Christ, the chalice is accidentally spilled, this misfortune has happened to the true blood of Christ; Luther speaks of how such an accident, which is not necessarily due to any sin, is followed by great fear and trembling in the good Christian.155 We are also informed as to how Luther actually acted. Such an accident occurred at the distribution of communion in the town church at Wittenberg in the year 1542, when Luther and the officiating pastor and the deacon, with the greatest reverence and in deep excitement, attempted to consume the poured out blood of Christ from the floor of the sanctuary. The witness writes: "This accident touched Doctor Martin's heart so profoundly that he sighed about it and said: 'Oh God, help!' His eyes were also full of tears."156 After mass Luther, following medieval precedent, had a chair, on which the Sacrament had been spilled, planed off and the wood shavings burned together with pieces of cloth that had likewise been involved. This story is told also by the leading theologians of the Formula of Concord, who express their approval.157 They were capable of taking cognizance of and highly valuating the same fact which Hermann Sasse has worded in our day, "Perhaps no Catholic ever had such reverence for the miracle of the Real Presence as Luther did. No one could think more highly of the consecration, no one could treat the consecrated elements more reverently."158

If our present age feels that these thoughts and actions are foreign, this is not due to a greater love towards God and His Sacrament or a better understanding of the Word of God. Rather this is due to homemade ideas about what is appropriate for God and due to a muddy hope that development also in religious matters will lift man above the cover of the physical. People want to leave the dark ages of religion behind them and elevate themselves to a higher level with better conditions, not weighed down by orders of creation, which can be detected in the functions of the human body, freed from the ballast of historical and geographical data given in Biblical history, relieved of dogmatical propositions about a God who is carried on a silver paten. Such a flight into the heavens has, however, always ended with a fall towards the abyss with scorched wings. The rules for God's doings and for our table manners at His altar are decided by God alone. This is one of the points where it is revealed whether or not man can disregard all kinds of subjective practicalities, including his need for salvation as the biblical filter, and instead meet God on His conditions. We shall not get any theologians in the real sense of the word until they have bent backs like the selfsame Luther, who had no qualms about seeking God in even the lowliest things.

Also in this point of the doctrine of the Sacrament of the Altar there has been a long history of resistance. It is no exaggeration to say that Melanchthon and his followers, the Philippists, with dreadful malice attacked what we have portrayed above. The strange thing is that the judgments they passed on their opponents were simply accepted by later research. A presentation of history tinted in this way gave rise to the myth about the peacefulness of Philippism and the quarrelsomeness of Gnesio-Lutheranism. The real truth is that Philippism always and consistently represents hateful arrogance in the same way the more educated and enlightened person always thinks that he has the right to show such arrogance in dealing with the uneducated, vulgar worshipper of idols. Melanchthon directed this accusation literally against his Lutheran opponents.159 On the other hand, the Philippists were always the ones who were anxious about church unity with the Gnesio-Lutherans, who were not willing to have such a form of ecclesiastical co-existence.

The great controversy about consecration, adoration and the reliquiae of the Sacrament was fought out seriously after Melanchthon's death. It spread to many quarters: in Sweden, in East Prussian, and in the Hanseatic towns of Northern Germany. In the city of Danzig, which was dominated by the Philippists, the Lutherans, even on their death beds, refrained from taking communion from ministers who did not teach that the leftovers had the character of being the Sacrament or tolerated such a teaching among their colleagues. The matter was not resolved when the Philippists offered to follow Lutheran practice without accepting the Lutheran doctrine. Reverence could, the Philippists thought, be a good reason for consuming the reliquiae, and they made reference to the passover lamb in the Old Testament where such directives were given. This reverence, which in modern terminology would be called almost high church, was not sufficient in the eyes of struggling Lutheranism. What the Lutherans wanted was not ceremony but teaching, not a church-political solution, but the unity of the Spirit around the words of Christ.160

The teaching at issue here must be penetrated somewhat further. The Philippists would not simply say that the presence was limited to the act of receiving communion. This wording is probably a late innovation and belongs rather to the orthodoxy of the seventeenth century. Instead, the Philippists claimed that it is first the reception of the elements that legitimizes the total action as being sacramental. Philippism reckoned with a Real Presence and with the fact that Jesus had promised to give His body in the Lord's Supper, even in, with and under bread and wine. On the other hand, Philippism did not wish to concede that Jesus declared that the bread "is" His body (panem esse corpus). That is why Philippism thought it was sufficient that Christ fulfills His promise, that the communicants really receive the promised gift, etc. Here lies the essential point, the status controversiae. For the Lutherans, Christ had made the bread His body through the consecration and commanded us to eat it; for the Philippists, Christ had promised to give His body if one ate the bread. Not without reason, the Philippists drew from this premise the conclusion that the Sacrament was an act, not a thing, and that if the bread were not eaten, Christ would have no reason to fulfill His promise for a non-existent communicant. In this case the words of Jesus have no direct connection with the bread, the only role of which is to render it possible for the promise to be fulfilled for the communicant. Logically this is an easily comprehensible construction, which shies at the words, "This [bread] is my body," finding this interpretation too literal,161 but which at the same time wishes to retain a church tradition that has decisive values for devotional life. The Melanchthonian school's attempts to find a solution have exercised an obvious attraction in all ages. In our own times, too, we are presented with trickily written documents that speak of Jesus' presence and Jesus' gift, but tell us nothing about what the consecrated elements are and what Jesus said. What we least of all are told is that the body and blood of Christ are, by virtue of the consecration, resting on the altar, that they are adorable and that they must be consumed so that nothing is left over. True faith in Jesus' words of institution cannot, given time to ponder, hesitate about the answers to these questions. In an age when what is at issue is (as it was at the time of the Formula of Concord was written) to unite split and divided groups within Lutheranism in a genuine doctrinal unity, those who are to be led together cannot be without agreement on this important point. The common celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar which is yearned for must occur with a common adoration of and with a common reverence for the holy things that are entrusted to our hands


123 Gustav Kawerau, Johann Agricola von Eisleben, 326.

124 Andreas Musculus, Propositiones de vera, reali et substantiali praesentia, Corporis & Sanguinis IESU Christi in Sacramento Altaris, Francofordiae ad Oderam, 1573. Christofer Cornernus' disputation took place under the presidency of Musculus, who can be regarded as one of the warmest defenders of sacramental adoration and who edited prayer books with the classical hymns for the adoration of the Sacrament.

125 WA 11:446.23f. (LW 36:293).

126 WA 11:446.17f. (LW 36:293).

127 WA 11:447.7f. (LW 36:294).

128 WA 11:448.1f. (LW 36:294).

129 WA 11:448.31f. (LW 36:295f.).

130 WA 11:448.27f. (LW 36:295).

131 WA 11:449.19ff. (LW 36:296).

132 WA 11:449.15f. (LW 36:296).

133 WA 11:449.19ff. (LW 36:296).

134 WA 11:444.24ff. (LW 36:291).

135 WA 11:449.29ff. (LW 36:297).

136 WA 11:447.27f. (LW 36:294).

137 WA 11:449.7ff. (LW 36:296).

138 WA Br 2:555.24f.

139 WA 54:432.1ff. (LW 34:355).

140. WA tr 5:308.15ff. The printing in WA is faulty and has been corrected by all scholars who have treated the text. A "noswehas" wrongly become a "nonnot."

141 WA Br 3:942, Beilage, 76ff.

142 A detailed description is found in Karin Hassler, Luther och elevationen i nattvardsmassan, Kyrklig Fornyelse, 1960, No. 12.

143 WA TR 5:308.9ff.

144 WA Br 10:3762.25f.

145 WA Br 10:3849.17f.

146 Tappert, 612 (SD X.9).

147 Nicolaus Selneccer, Reverendissimi et illustrissimi Principis et Domini, Domini Georgij Princips Anhaltini ac ver Episcopi, Sententiae . . . , Lipsiae 1579, 61.

148 WA 19:491.13ff. (LW 36:341).

149. WA Br 10:3894.27ff. For a complete English translation of this correspondence see E. F. Peters. "Extra Usum Nullum Sacramentum. The Origin and Meaning of the Axiom: 'Nothing Has the Character of a Sacrament Outside of the Use' in Sixteenth-Century and Seventeenth-Century Lutheran Theology." ThD. diss,. Concordia Seminary at St. Louis, 1968, 201-15.

150 Tappert, 584 (SD VII.84). Cf. Bjarne W. Teigen, The Case of the Lost Luther Reference (posted on SR).

151 Kawerau, Der Streit uber die Reliquiae Sacramenti in Eisleben 1543, in Zeitschrift fur Kirchengeschichte, 33 Band, 295ff. Theodor Kolde, Analecta lutherana, Gotha 1883, 217.

152 Ibid.

153 Certain older Lutheran liturgies, however, have the priests communion first according to the Roman pattern, and no objection can be raised against that order, which has been revived lately.

154 WA Br 10:3894.

155 WA 26:595.31ff.

156 Johann Hachenburg. Wider denn irrthumb der newen zwinglianer, Errfurdt 1557, fol. F a f.

157 Historie des Sacramentasstreits (Selneccer, Kirchner, Chemnitz), s. 1., 1591, 610.

158. Sasse, This is My Body, 176; 2nd ed., 142.

159 Corpus Reformatorum, Halle 1834-1879, 9:626.

160 The controversy in Danzig is described by Gustave Kotz, Die Danziger Konkordienformel uber das heilige Abendmahl, Notel genannt, under ihre Apologie. (1561-1567), Kinigsberg i. Pr. 1901.

161 Paul Eber, Vom heiligen Sacrament des Leibs und Bluts unsers Herrn Jesus Christi, Wittenberg 1563, 150. Eber, the Philippistic pastor of Wittenberg, supported his fellowbelievers in Danzig together with the Philippistic faculty of Wittenberg.


VIII. The Sacrament Is A Means Of Grace

With the title, "The Sacrament Is A Means Of Grace," we come to a subject that is much more extensive than those which have been dealt with in previous chapters. If the various questions that are connected with the Real Presence can be solved--and have to be solved--without recurrence to justification by faith, it holds true that the Sacrament as a means of grace can be touched upon only as a part of the central doctrine of salvation. We thus stand before a task which is of far greater seriousness than any of the other problems of sacramental theology. The term "means of grace" itself is as such too unclear to be used without an exhaustive description. In the world of religion there is much grace, and there are many means of grace which lack biblical foundation. The almost automatic reference to the use of the Word and the Sacraments often used in modern pastoral work sometimes involves a risk: people do not know in what way they should be used. Faith in the Real Presence alone is of no avail at this point. Heathenism is also familiar with the joy of the great cultic festival around a deity that reveals itself. The modern speculations about liturgy and sacrament, which have inspired the modern liturgical renewal and in excess have changed the Christian houses of worship and the traditional service, are mainly based on observations in the field of the psychology of religion which hold equally true for heathen rites. Meeting God and the collective feeling, expressed in the fellowship of a meal with ritual forms, do not help in any deeper sense, not even if Christ is said to be the center.

Thus it is not enough to take to heart the need of external action and symbols. Sacramental religion will attract altogether too many people. In this connection it is symptomatic that the leading woman minister in Sweden is wholeheartedly involved in such a kind of highchurchmanship. With feminine tact and intuition she has known how to take up useful little traits that are constituting factors in the Catholic type of religion which has always sighed with Goethe: The Protestants have too few Sacraments. Over a theology which denies essential parts of the Christian revelation and proclaims a Father-Mother-God, the red sanctuary lamp spreads its warm light, and communion attendance is high and satisfactory. In the same way the gnostic cults could, at the time when Christianity appeared on the scene in the Mediterranean world, impress the masses with their numerous means of grace, splendid services and beautifully apparelled priestesses. Here one might also call to mind that much of the sacramental revival with the Protestant national churches of Europe goes back to the Marburg theologian, Friedrich Heiler, who with great love and diligence revived many of the traditional, beautiful forms of Lutheranism in order to put them into the service of a syncretistic theology which not only hovered above the confessions, but also above the religions of the world. For him the means of grace were constitutive elements, but he found that the Jordan of the Bible and the Ganges of the Hindus flowed from the same source.

The teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church concerning the means of grace is not to be viewed as a part of such a concept of the means of grace. That is prevented by the teaching of the Reformation concerning grace and the meaning of grace. While there is a certain noticeable relation between the Lutheran teaching of the Real Presence and medieval theology, and this finds expression, among other things, in Luther's generous references to the holy church under the papacy at this point, the Lutheran teaching on the means of grace cannot by any means be viewed as an extension of scholasticism. For Luther it was necessary here to make a decisive break in continuity. Even if Luther clearly reckoned with the fact that the means of grace were at work in the many who were led to salvation under the papacy, he feels nothing but distance from and enmity towards the perversion of grace which prevailed in the medieval doctrine on the means of grace. It would indeed be much better if the useless fear of Catholicism, which goes to such wrong and unhealthy lengths in its attacks on transubstantiation, were to demonstrate instead its Lutheran content by emphasizing the error of Rome as to the means of grace. It is revealing to observe that ignorance often reigns as to where the line of demarcation runs here. Even churchly Protestants accept the general concept that the Reformation loosened the ties between the external means of grace and the inward forgiveness, and that faith means that the significance of the individual replaces that of the priest and of the means of grace. This disfigures the most essential difference between Rome and Lutheranism in such a way that the opposing parties trade places. If it is at all possible to give a simple, summarizing presentation of this question, it may be said that the Reformation--N.B., the Lutheran Reformation--invited to real forgiveness of sins in the means of grace people who, during all the years of their life theretofore, had used the means of grace in the conviction that they did not with certainty convey the forgiveness of sins. That was the true nature of the monstrum incertitudinis of medieval theology; the monster of spiritual uncertainty which bade, and still bids today, that no one may apply to himself with full certainty the promise of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

The Lutheran Reformation did not arise over a controversy concerning the Lord's Supper. It was instead a controversy about absolution and indulgences that caused the split in the Church of Rome. When the Lutheran Confessions wanted to summarize the difference in faith that had arisen, they said: "The bull of Leo X has condemned a very necessary doctrine that all Christians should hold and believe, namely, we ought to trust that we have been absolved, not because of our contrition, but because of the word of Christ, whatever you bind, etc. (Matt. 16:19)."162 Here, in the bull which is in fact the Roman See's condemnation of the Lutheran congregations as heretical, the abyss is opened which, according to the Lutheran Confessions, separates faith and unbelief. Here it is proclaimed that the Roman teaching puts the accent on human activity in confession, namely penitence, while for the Lutherans all stress is put on faith in the institution of the Sacrament by Christ's giving the power of the keys to the apostles. The same bull condemns the Lutheran sentence that reception of the Sacrament is unworthy if one relies on self-examination as to sins, on prayers and other preparations, whereas those who trust that they receive grace there [in the Sacrament] do receive grace.163

This Roman teaching which refers to preparation must consequently also teach that, since no one knows his own disposition, all forgiveness of sins is uncertain. This is the teaching which in Luther's opinion overturns the foundation of the Christian faith. It extinguishes the faith that always applies to itself with joy and certainty the Gospel in the means of grace. What Rome did not understand--and still does not understand--is that "the Gospel (in all its forms) is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:16ff.) In the completed sacrifice, which the Gospel proclaims, an eternal righteousness is once and for all achieved, and when the Gospel draws nigh, be it in the Sacrament or in any other means of grace, it requires faith and nothing but faith. This draws attention to the words which the priest takes into his mouth and to the sacrifice which he has in his hands, and dispenses with all thoughts about the efficacy of preparation, depth of penitence and a good communion. The good communion, good confession, which always lets the individual sway between hope and fear, is replaced by the steadfast Word, and certain absolution, the overflowing sacrifice of atonement .164

The faith which is required for the use of the means of grace is thus trust in the Gospel proclaimed in the words of institution when they call the whole world to the righteousness which is valid for all. Faith is directed here to the Word, just as the powerful Word directed to faith, creates, awakens and preserves it. This does not mean that the body and blood of Christ have less significance. The Gospel is never an empty declaration of the grace of God: it is a proclamation of the realization of this grace in the obedience, suffering and death of God. For this reason the Gospel exalts the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament as the greatest of all gifts. This treasure is conveyed and communicated to us in no other way than through the words, "given and poured out for you." Here you have both truths, that it is Christ's body and blood and that these are yours as your treasure and gift. Christ's body can never be an unfruitful, vain thing, impotent and useless. Yet, however great the treasure may be in itself, it must be comprehended in the Word and offered to us through the Word, otherwise we could never know of it or seek it.165

If the word thus conveys to faith the atoning and sanctifying power of the body and blood of Christ, it is nonetheless a question of power which veritably proceeds from the divine body of Christ. For the middle Ages this thought was unfathomable.166 About this gift which is extended by the hand of the priest and is interpreted to faith by the Word, it is said: "This food changes him who eats it into itself and makes him like itself, spiritual, living and eternal."167 Not to believe this, to believe that the body of Christ is not such a wonderful thing, is to fall into the errors of gnostic heresy, to become a Marcionite and a Manichaean.168 In the final analysis, this power of the body of Christ is not limited to the soul, which in faith in the Word is edified by what the mouth receives. Also the mouth, the throat and the body169 will in time get to see that the food received abolishes the fact of corruption: "the soul understands well that the body must live eternally, because it takes unto itself an eternal food which does not leave it in the grave."170 Such words are not eccentricities that occasionally find their way into Luther's writings quite by accident. They are absolutely self-evident things, if the Sacrament is really God's own body and God's own blood. Luther knows that his teaching here is in agreement with the teaching of the fathers of the church about the Sacrament as the "medicine of immortality,"171 and he does not back away from such powerful words which serve to encourage faith and to give it something different from the swaying between hope and fear which tradition bade during the Middle Ages. That is why the Reformation means the great invitation to use the meal of the sacrifice of Calvary diligently:

We must never regard the Sacrament as a harmful thing which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine which aids and quickens us in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body has benefited also. Why, then, do we act as if the Sacrament were a poison which would kill us if we ate of it?"172
Not to believe thus about the Sacrament, and nevertheless to take it in unbelief and fear, would be real poison: "To such people nothing can be good or wholesome, just as when a sick person willfully eats and drinks what is forbidden him by the physician."173

If anyone would call this magic, he is best answered with the words used by the faithful Gnesio-Lutheran, Erhard Sperber, when he was attacked by a Philippist because of his and the Lutheran Church's teaching concerning the reliquiae of the Sacrament: "For he [the Philippist] considered it conjuring or magic; for what happens by God's command and by God's word is right and valid; if one is to call this magic, it must be called holy, commanded magic (magia sancta & iussa)174 White magic is the magic which, from the time before the dawning of the ages, always comforted creation in its distress and which prepares the new creation. It has its source in God, who never asked us for counsel, who created us without our participation and who saved us without our participation, and who wants to be believed in as such a God in the Sacrament of the Altar.


162 Tappert, 167 (AP IV.397).

163 WA 7:122.21f.

164 As to the question about the meaning of the so-called Reformation discovery, i.e., what the central proposition of the Lutheran Reformation really is, the reader is directed to Uuras Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel, St. Louis 1951, and Ernst Bizer, Fides ex auditu. Eine Untersuchung Uber die Entdeckung der Gerechtigkeit Gottes durch Martin Luther, 3 erweiterte Auflage, Neukirchen 1966.

165 WA 30i:225.29ff. Tappert, 449f. (LC V.29,30).

166 Cf. E. Jane Dempsey Douglass, Justification in late Medieval Preaching, A study of John Geiler of Keisersberg, Leiden 1966, 188.

167 WA 23:203.27f. (LW 37:100).

168 WA 23:201.31f. (LW 37:99).

169 WA 23:259.4f. (LW 37:123).

170 WA 23:191.25ff. (LW 37:93f.).

171 WA 23:233.23ff. (LW 37:132).

172 WA 30i:230.37ff., Tappert, 454 (LC V.68).

173 WA 30i:231.4ff., Tappert, 454 (LC V.69).

174 Erhard Sperber, Christiliche und notwendige Verantwortung..., Erffurd 1563, fol. 74a.

29 November 1998


This work is a condensed English version of Hardt's 1971 doctoral dissertation, Venerabilis et Adorabilis Eucharistia (Eucharistic Veneration and Adoration). Interested readers should watch for the complete English translation, which is planned in the near future. No part of this document is to be further published or disseminated by any means without the express permission of Erling T. Teigen, 314 Pearl St., Mankato MN 56001 (e-mail: ).

the reverend doctor tom g. hardt was born in 1935 in Stockholm, Sweden. He was a candidate of philosophy (=B.A.) at Uppsala in 1956, and in 1971 he defended his doctoral thesis. His bibliography includes nearly 400 entries besides this dissertation. In 1961, together with some friends in the faith, he formed St. Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Stockholm, of which he became pastor. At the time of his death this past summer (1998) he was still pastor of this congregation.

Dr. Hardt found a mentor in the outstanding German theologian, Hermann Sasse. The consequence of this was that he stood opposed to all tendencies toward general protestantism, and saw not least in the Lutheran doctrine of the sacraments with its realism, a truth which was not negotiable. Without romanticizing, he placed a high value on a rich liturgical form growing out of the faith in Christ's true presence in the Divine Service.

Direct all correspondence concerning this essay to the editors at:



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