Quote of the Week – Worthily, Not Worthy

The following is taken from A Sermon on the New Testament, that is, on the Holy Mass (1520) by Martin Luther. The work as a whole does not yet represent Luther’s mature thought on the Lord’s Supper, but it does “replace the traditional notion of the mass as a sacrifice with the scriptural teaching of the Lord’s Supper as a testament” (LW 35:77). The very first paragraph is also a masterpiece on the purpose and limitations of the law, and may appear in a subsequent Quote of the Week. In the quote that follows, from paragraph or section 15, Luther helps us to distinguish between taking the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27) and taking it as intrinsically worthy people (which we neither can nor do).

Now if one of these two thoughts should assail you (since even [when we believe Christ’s testament in the Lord’s Supper] these thoughts do not leave)—the first, that you are way too unworthy of such a rich testament, and second, even if you were worthy, what it gives is still so great that human nature shudders when confronted by the greatness of the gifts (for what can be missing when there is forgiveness of all sins and eternal life?)—then, like I said, you must pay more attention to the words of Christ than to such thoughts. He will not lie to you; your thoughts will deceive you.1 If a thousand gulden [or $300,000] were bequeathed to a poor beggar or even to a buffoon, he would not claim it out of his own merit or worthiness, nor would he relinquish it on account of how great the gift was. And if anyone would throw his unworthiness and the greatness of the gift in his face, he would certainly not let any of this scare him away and would say, “How is this your business? I know very well that I am unworthy of the testament. I do not claim it on the basis of my merit, as if anyone owed it to me, but on the basis of the favor and grace of the testator. If he did not think it was too much to bequeath to me, why should I despise myself so, and not claim and take it?”

Source
Weimarer Ausgabe 6:361,362

Endnote
1 Luther has this, intentionally or not, in the form of a memorable rhyme: Er wirt dir nit liegen, deyn gedanckenn werden dich triegen.

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Quote of the Week – Not Bare Elements

Cyril of Jerusalem delivered his Catechetical Lectures on Christian doctrine to his catechumens circa 350 AD. His final five lectures are called Mystagogica (On the Mysteries) and are sometimes reckoned separately. The following quote on the Lord’s Supper is taken from §1, 3, and 6 of the fourth of those final lectures, which is the twenty-second lecture in the entire series. Some of what Cyril says elsewhere in this lecture could easily be understood as sowing the seeds of the modern Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and certainly in retrospect it did sow those seeds. However, to the extent that Cyril is cited in support of transubstantiation, he is not being read in context, as the quote below makes clear. He does not assert that the earthly elements have been abolished entirely in the Lord’s Supper, only that they are not “bare.”

Since therefore he has made pronouncement and said with regard to the bread, “This is my body,” who will dare to doubt any longer? And since he has affirmed himself and said, “This is my blood,” who will ever waver, saying it is not his blood? … So then, let us partake with complete assurance that we are partaking of Christ’s body and blood. For in the form of bread, the body is given to you, and in the form of wine, the blood is given to you, in order that, by partaking of Christ’s body and blood, you may be of the same body and blood as he. For in this way we also become Christ-bearers, since his body and blood are distributed throughout our members. … Therefore do not regard the bread and the wine as bare elements, for according to the authoritative pronouncement you are encountering Christ’s body and blood. For even if your senses suggest this to you, it should still be your faith that assures you. Do not judge the matter from what you taste, but from your faith be fully assured without wavering that you have been deemed worthy of being given Christ’s body and blood.

Source
Patrologia Graeca 33:1097,1100,1102