A Laymen’s Commentary on the Smalcald Articles: The Sacrament of the Altar

This is part 12 of 17 in the series A Laymen's Commentary on the Smalcald Articles

Part III, Article VI. Of the Sacrament of the Altar.

1] Of the Sacrament of the Altar we hold that bread and wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ, and are given and received not only by the godly, but also by wicked Christians.

We teach that Holy Communion is Christ’s True Body and His True Blood in, with, and under the Bread and Wine.  This Sacrament is given by Christ Himself for us to eat and drink. This gives the forgiveness of sins. The Body and Blood of Christ is received by good and evil people alike. Good people to their salvation, evil people to their condemnation. (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

2] And that not only one form is to be given. [For] we do not need that high art [specious wisdom] which is to teach us that under the one form there is as much as under both, as the sophists and the Council of Constance teach. 3] For even if it were true that there is as much under one as under both, yet the one form only is not the entire ordinance and institution [made] ordained and commanded by Christ. 4] And we especially condemn and in God’s name execrate those who not only omit both forms but also quite autocratically [tyrannically] prohibit, condemn, and blaspheme them as heresy, and so exalt themselves against and above Christ, our Lord and God [opposing and placing themselves ahead of Christ], etc.

We reject that only one kind is to be given, but rather that Christians should receive both kinds, the Body and Blood, in line with Christ’s ordinance.  We do not need some sort of sophisticated or convoluted argument stating that one kind is fully sufficient.  Even it is true that one kind is enough, we should still receive both as instituted by Christ.  It is evil to refuse the Sacrament in both kinds to the laity.  It is even more evil to prohibit and call heretics those who give the Sacrament in both kinds.

5] As regards transubstantiation, we care nothing about the sophistical subtlety by which they teach that bread and wine leave or lose their own natural substance, and that there remain only the appearance and color of bread, and not true bread. For it is in perfect agreement with Holy Scriptures that there is, and remains, bread, as Paul himself calls it, 1 Cor. 10:16: The bread which we break. And 1 Cor. 11:28: Let him so eat of that bread.

Transubstantiation is the idea that at the consecration the bread and wine cease to be bread and wine in their essential nature and become Christ’s Body and Blood retaining only the appearance of bread and wine.  This is clearly sophistry and should be rejected.  Rather we hold, as Christ and St. Paul make evident that both bread and wine, Body and Blood are present (1 Corinthians 10:1-22). We need not contemplate how this occurs as it is peering into a mystery too great for human reason.

1 Lord Jesus Christ, You have prepared
This feast for our salvation;
It is Your body and Your blood,
And at Your invitation
As weary souls, with sin oppressed,
We come to You for needed rest,
For comfort, and for pardon.

2 Although You did to Heav’n ascend,
Where angel hosts are dwelling,
And in Your presence they behold
Your glory, all excelling,
And though Your people shall not see
Your glory and Your majesty
Till dawns the judgment morning.

3 Yet, Savior, You are not confined
To any habitation;
But You are present even now
Here with Your congregation.
Firm as a rock this truth shall stand,
Unmoved by any daring hand
Or subtle craft and cunning.

4 We eat this bread and drink this cup,
Your precious Word believing
That Your true body and Your blood
Our lips are here receiving.
This word remains forever true,
All things are possible with You,
For You are Lord Almighty.

5 Though reason cannot understand,
Yet faith this truth embraces;
Your body, Lord, is even now
At once in many places.
I leave to You how this can be;
Your Word alone suffices me;
I trust its truth unfailing.

6 Lord, I believe what You have said;
Help me when doubts assail me.
Remember that I am but dust,
And let my faith not fail me.
Your Supper in this vale of tears
Refreshes me and stills my fears
And is my priceless treasure.

7 Grant that we worthily receive
Your Supper, Lord, our Savior,
And, truly grieving o’er our sins,
May prove by our behavior
That we are thankful for Your grace
And day by day may run our race,
In holiness increasing.

8 For Your consoling supper, Lord,
Be praised throughout all ages!
Preserve it, for in ev’ry place
The world against it rages.
Grant that this sacrament may be
A blessèd comfort unto me
When living and when dying.

(LSB 622)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon

Comments

A Laymen’s Commentary on the Smalcald Articles: The Sacrament of the Altar — 2 Comments

  1. A thought: ☝This is why LUTHERans never needed an Epiclesis in our liturgical usages.

  2. Krauth in *Conservative Reformation* makes the fascinating observation that Rome and the Reformed essentially agree: if it is bread and wine, it cannot be Christ’s body and blood. Rome, obviously, solves the problem by erasing the bread and wine so that it can be His body and blood. The reformed, obviously, solve the problem by erasing the body and blood, since it is manifest that here is bread and wine. Krauth points out that Lutherans go their lonely way in sticking with Christ’s institution here: this bread IS His body, given for us; this cup IS His blood, shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins. It is striking that Luther in SA does not use “in, with, under” but makes the same point with “the bread and wine in the Supper ARE the true body and blood.” Indeed, as you so wonderfully cite: “I leave to You how this can be; Your Word alone suffices me.”

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