Monday, June 1, 2020

Real. . .

Doubtless it is a false characterization to say that the distinctions between Luther and the various Sacramentarians is whether or not Christ is present in the Eucharist.  Everyone believes He is there somewhere.  But it is clear that the concern for Luther and those with him was not that Christ was somewhere but where Christ was as Christ Himself has pledged and promised.  It is not necessarily that what are pitted against each other are a real presence and a real absence but the mode of that real presence.  While Luther and his partners were no supporters of Eucharistic adoration outside the Mass, those who spoke against the bodily presence when attacking the Rome's practice of veneration of the Eucharistic host were missing something in Luther that is connected to his insistence upon the real real presence. That is that Luther and his theological heirs have insisted that adoration of the host can and, indeed, should take place within the context of the Mass or Divine Service precisely because it is there in the host or bread that Christ is present -- the same crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Lord.

It can all be seen in Luther's writing from April 1523 to the Bohemian Brethren.  There he defends himself from those who had misrepresented his view in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church and to deal with the Bohemian Brethren and their rejection of such adoration.  Typical Luther, he was hesitant to insist upon uniformity and yet he did insist that it was summarily wrong to reject such adoration.  Christians must be free to adore Christ present in the Sacrament as disposed by the heart and as they have opportunity.  When in a Waldensian catechism it is stated that Christ is not present substantially and naturally in the Sacrament and that He is not there to be adore, Luther cries not so fast.  So the two issues of adoration and the real presence at connected from the beginning in Luther and his heirs.

Now to come back to the sacrament: he who does not believe that Christ’s body and blood are present does well not to worship either with his spirit or with his body. But he who does believe, as sufficient demonstration has shown it ought to be believed, can surely not withhold his adoration of the body and blood of Christ without sinning. For I must always confess that Christ is present when his body and blood are present. His words do not lie to me, and he is not separated from his body and blood.  LW 36
What one believes or does not believe in the heart can wait for another time. One should put to him the straight question: “What is held here in hand and mouth?” (Martin Luther, An Open Letter to Those in Frankfurt on the Main [1533]
For Luther, the elevation and adoration were not necessarily attached to the idea of the Mass as a sacrificial offering but are affirmations that this bread is Christ's body and this cup is His blood and that what His Word says it is, it truly is, held in the hand of the pastor and distributed to the mouth of the communicant.  That is the intention for which Christ established this Sacrament and not for a use apart from the eating and drinking in faith.

Those who refused to adore or who refused the possibility of adoration could not, in Luther's mind, hold to the real presence of Christ in His Sacrament.  In the same way, the manner with which you deal with what remains after the Distribution (the reliquae) is also significant in the distinction between Luther and his conservative reformers and their insistence upon the real real presence and those who refused to connect that presence to the bread and cup, to the eating and drinking.

Luther's concern here is also the mixing of consecrated and unconsecrated -- something that has meaning and significance only if there is a change that Christ effects by His Word and promise -- and with the treatment of the consecrated as if it were nothing but bread and wine.  So Luther cautions the consumption of what remains not because he believes the real presence has some expiration date but to avoid abuse against Christ's body and blood.   The mixing of consecrated and unconsecrated is an abuse in the mind of Luther and in the practice of the reformers with him. 

Later Lutheran teachers took up this same concern for the real presence.  Martin Chemnitz put it this way:  ...the mind should be so elevated and faith should so meditate that it recognizes that on this sacred table has been placed the Lamb of God with his body and blood. On this table we see the bread and the cup placed and dealt with by the external action of the priests. And when we receive a little from the external bread and the cup in the Supper, then at the same time faith, on the basis of the Word, recognizes that we also truly receive the body and blood of Christ which are present on the table. Chemnitz, The Lord's Supper

Lutherans are too often lumped in with the Radical Reformers and their heirs who rejected the connection of any presence to the bread and cup.  In contrast, Luther retained the elevation and insisted upon the adoration being allowed because he insisted that Christ was not symbolically or simply spiritually present but in and with the bread and wine.

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