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Qu. 78. Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?

A. Not at all: but as the water in baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, neither is the washing away of sin itself, being only the sign and confirmation thereof appointed of God; so the bread in the Lord’s supper is not changed into the very body of Christ; though agreeably to the nature and properties of sacraments, it is called the body of * Christ Jesus.

Qu. 79. Why then doth Christ call the bread his body, and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood; and Paul the “communion of the body and blood of Christ?”

A. Christ speaks thus, not without great reason, namely, not only thereby to teach us, that as bread and wine support this temporal life, so his crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink, whereby our souls are fed to eternal life; but more especially by these visible signs and pledges to assure us, that we are as really partakers of this’ true body and blood (by the operation of the Holy Ghost) as we receive by the mouths of our bodies these holy signs in remembrance of him; and that all his sufferings and obedience are as certainly ours, as if we had in our own persons suffered and made satisfaction for our sins to God.

Chapter 1: The Fearful Error Of The Romanists.

In the preceding Lord’s Day the Catechism treated of the institution of the Lord’s Supper and of its significance in general. There it taught us, among other things, that by means of eating and drinking the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper we become more and more united to the sacred body of Christ, so that we become flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. In this present Lord’s Day the Catechism treats of the sacramental operation. This is indeed a very important question, and it should not lightly be passed by. Preachers sometimes complain of the fact that the Heidelberg Catechism devotes no less than three long chapters to the question of the Lord’s Supper; and many are of the opinion that if the Catechism were written in our day, these long chapters could be considerably shortened and probably comprised into one Lord’s Day. There are other matters that demand our attention in our modern age, and our controversy, especially with Rome, certainly does not occupy the center of our interest as it did in the time of the Reformation. But this is undoubtedly a mistake. The question concerning the mode of operation in the sacraments, and especially in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, is just as important as it ever was. Fundamentally it is a question that concerns the grace of God. The question is, namely: how are the sacraments, and how is the Lord’s Supper especially, a means of grace? How does this second sacrament work? In what way am I nourished with the body and blood of Christ through the Lord’s Supper? And this question the Catechism introduces by asking: “Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?” And it instructs us that our being nourished by the body and blood of Christ is not effected by a magical operation on the signs as such, but by an operation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts through the signs of the broken body and the shed blood of Christ. By these signs Christ through His Spirit instructs us and assures us that He really nourishes us with the bread of life.

It is evident that in this Lord’s Day the Catechism opposes especially the Romish error of transubstantiation, although at the same time it denies the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation. According to the Romanists Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper not simply in the spiritual sense, as taught by the Reformed, nor simply by the real presence of His body and blood in and with and under the bread and wine, as is taught by the Lutherans, but by the bread and wine being changed into His body and blood. The question may indeed be asked whether the Romish Church really teaches this fearful error of transubstantiation. And the answer is, without doubt, that it not only teaches this false doctrine, but that it pronounces its curse upon all that deny it. This is very evident from The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. In its thirteenth session, held October 11, 1551, that Council set forth its doctrine concerning the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist.

In Chapter I the Council, declared: “In the first place, the holy synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that, in the august sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things, (Dominus nostrum Jesum Christum, verum Deum atque hominem, vere, realiter, ac substantialiter sub specie illarum rerum sensibilium contineri).”

Again, in Chapter III the same Council declared: “And this faith has ever been in the church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the veritable body of our Lord, and His veritable blood, together with His soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine; but the body indeed under the species of bread, and the blood under the species of wine, by the force of the words; but the body itself under the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connection and concomitancy whereby the parts of Christ our Lord, who hath now risen from the dead, to die no more, are united together; and the divinity, furthermore, on account of the admirable hypostatical union thereof with His body and soul. Wherefore it is most true, that as much is contained under either species as under both; for Christ whole an entire is under the species of bread and under any part whatsoever of that species; likewise the whole Christ is under the species of wine, and under the parts thereof.”

The Romish Church therefore teaches that the whole Christ is in the bread and the whole Christ is in the wine. And what is more, the whole Christ is in each and every particle of both species. Moreover, it teaches that the effect accomplished by transubstantiation is permanent. And from this fact, namely, that the change of the substance of the elements into the substance of the body and blood of Christ remains permanently, the Romish Church concludes that the host, or wafer, may be preserved, that therefore it may be brought to the sick, that it may be carried about in possessions, and that it is but proper that it should be worshipped. The Romanists make a distinction between douleia and latreia. The former may be rendered to the saints and to angels, but the latter is due to God alone. Now Christ is God manifested in the flesh. And therefore worship may be paid to Him. And as after the consecration of the bread and wine Christ is present in the wafer, or the host, both as to His divine and as to His human nature, the Romanists pay homage and worship to that wafer. The propriety of worshipping the wafer as if represents the Christ is also taught in the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Chapter V, where we read: “Wherefore, there is no room left for doubt, that all the faithful of Christ may, according to the custom ever received in the Catholic, Church, render in veneration the worship of latreia, which is due to the true God, to this most holy sacrament. For not therefore is it the less to be adored on this account, that it was instituted by Christ, the Lord, in order to be received; for we believe that same God to be present therein, of whom the eternal Father, when introducing Him into the world, says: And let all the angels of God adore him; whom the magi, falling down, adored; who, in fine, as the Scripture testifies was adored by the apostles in Galilee.

“The holy synod declares, moreover, that very piously and religiously was this custom introduced into the church, that this sublime and venerable sacrament be, with special veneration and solemnity, celebrated, every year, on a certain day and that a festival; and that it be borne reverently and with honor in processions through the streets and public places.”

And the Romish Church declared in Chapter IV of the same Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, the doctrine of transubstantiation as follows: “And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the church of God, and this holy synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy catholic church, suitably and properly called transubstantiation.”

And the same Thirteenth Session of the Council of Trent anathemize everyone that denies this doctrine of transubstantiation.

In Canon I we read: “If anyone denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as a sign, or in a figure, or virtue: let him be anathema.”

And in the second Canon: “If anyone saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood—the species only of the bread and wine remaining—which conversion indeed the catholic church most aptly calls transubstantiation: let him be anathema.”

And in Canon III we read: “If anyone denieth that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated: let him be anathema.”

And as to the substance of the bread and wine being changed permanently into the substance of the body and blood of Christ Canon IV teaches as follows: “If anyone saith, that, after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist, but are there only during the use, whilst it is being taken, and not either reserved or after; and that, in the hosts, or consecrated particles, which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true body of the Lord remaineth not: let him be anathema.”

(to be continued)