Thursday, 28 March 2013
Luther on the Lord's Supper
"Whoever wishes to be a Christian should not be like the fanatical spirits who question how it is possible for bread to be Christ’s Body and wine to be Christ’s Blood. They have their own ideas of God and want to comprehend him with their reason; therefore, if something does not rhyme with reason, God also is unable to do it. But just why is it that man has puzzled about this for so long? The more man struggles over it, the less he is able to comprehend our Lord God with human reason. For our Lord God is not a God who allows himself to be measured and comprehended by human reason, nor are h is works and words to be subject to the canons of human reason. St. Paul says (Ephesians 3:20): “[God] is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Why is it then that we torment ourselves by presuming to resolve and establish that God’s Word and work must conform to our reason? If God says it must be so, then because it is God’s Word and he is all-powerful and truthful, he is able, also, to effect what he says.
Therefore, we should hold steadfastly to these clear words of our Lord, The bread he proffers is his Body, and the cup or wine is his Blood, or the New Testament in his Blood. In childlike faith we should partake, without doubting, and believe it to be so. We should give thanks to Christ for such grace, rejoice over it, and strengthen our hearts by it, considering why Christ has done what he did, not disputing whether he is able to do it. Impertinent are the hearts which question why Christ did it this way and doubt that he is able to do it.
We should leave God’s Word and work undisputed and ask only who has spoken the Word and who has done the work, whether God or man has spoken it, whether it is God’s or man’s work. If it is God’s Word and work, close your eyes, do not dispute and inquire as to how it comes about, but believe that God is all-omnipotent and truthful in his words and work.
People who are conscious of their sins and sincerely desire to be rid of them should be urged to receive the Sacrament and not regard it as a judgmental occasion to be feared, but as welcome and comforting food for distressed souls. Undoubtedly it occurred under the papacy that people came to fear this Sacrament. But Christians should be instructed to approach it with joy, confident and comforted, saying, I am a poor sinner, I need help and comfort, I wish to attend the Lord’s Supper, and take nourishment from the Body and Blood of my dear Lord Jesus Christ. For he instituted this Sacrament so that all hungry and thirsty souls might be nourished and refreshed. He will not reproach me, much less hold me back, if I but come in his name to receive his help and comfort."
From Luther's House Postil for Maundy Thursday.
Pic: The Mystical Supper; icon by Simon Ushakov, 1685 (Public Domain).