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Eucharistic Sacrifice Explained By A Lutheran

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The idea of Eucharistic Sacrifice sends Lutherans running for the hills. Luther, in his writings, demolished the notion and has wiped it from the minds of Lutherans for five hundred years so far. 

He wrote against the abuses of it. The (alleged) RC teaching that Christ dies again at every Eucharist. While some RC's taught this at certain times and places, such a teaching is not the teaching of the RC church. According to the Catholic Catechism question 1366 

"The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:

[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit."

There are other parts of the RC understanding of the Lord's Supper that we do not agree with (such as masses offered for the dead) but what is said above can be confessed by Lutherans as well as RC's. 

The Introit for Pentecost 23, from Psalm 84, probably says it best where Israel prays,

"Behold our shield, O God, 
     Look on the face of your Anointed."

When Lutherans offer Christ to God in Divine Service (liturgically symbolized by the elevation of the Body and Blood) this is what they mean. They hold up (offer) Christ as their shield from sin, death, devil and judgment. They ask God to see them through the lens of Christ. In "the image of the Son" (Romans 8:29) to which we are conformed in blessed baptism. We offer our God nothing else than what he has already offered us: "...his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the world." (1 John 2:2).

Or in the words of the hymn: "We give thee but thine own, whate'er the gift may be."

Or said another way there is no means by which we can approach God in peace, except through sacrifice. Through Christ. So he is: the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), the spiritual sacrifice pure and holy (Romans 12:1)

By such offering, such celebration of the Sacrament that Jesus commanded his church to celebrate the circuit is completed: God gives his all to us in Christ, and we in Eucharist both receive his gift, and return ourselves, with and through Christ, to the Father. "Our Father." The breach is gone, "Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinner reconciled."

The Eucharistic sacrifice, then, is not an immolation, for "Christ died once for all." But an oblation. "We love him because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Lastly Luther writes that: we do not offer Christ, but we enter into Christ's oblation -- "and in this sense it is permissible and right to call the mass a sacrifice, not indeed in itself, but as the means whereby we offer up ourselves together with Christ; that is to say that we cast ourselves upon Christ with a sure faith in his testament, to come before God with out prayer, our praise and our oblation, only through him and his mediation, believeing firmly that he is our Shepherd and our Priest in heaven before the face of God." (Quoted by Brillioth, P.99 "Eucharistic Faith and Practice Evangelical and Catholic.")

2 Comments

A nursing friend of my wife brought home a periodical from SSPX (Society of St Pius X - the ultra-RC organization) in which Luther is quoted as saying if we bring down the Mass, we bring down all of popery. That sounds very Lutheresque, but also contrary to the Augsburg Confession, which states we have retained the Mass. I obtained Luther's full statement online - it is his reply to Henry VIII ("Luther in England" online) - and the context is his opposition to Thomism and, at the point of the quotation, his emphatic opposition to the Mass as sacrifice (as was understood). So SSPX and the Irish Jesuit who wrote that article was not being honest with its parishioners. As I understand the RC catechism, they accept the once for all Sacrifice on the Cross and are simply making the Mass a part of that. But I am uneasy.
Amen

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