The Self-Serve Eucharist
It started with Martin Luther declaring in The Babylonian Captivity (1520) that the bread and wine in the Eucharist, though containing the Real Presence of Christ, are not a means of remembrance of and communion with Christ, as in the traditional Eucharist and as Jesus taught in the Gospels, but rather a “sign and memorial” of Christ’s promise of forgiveness; and also with Luther’s declaration that priests have no higher spiritual status than lay people, because all true Christians are priests.
And now, after six centuries,—and in the very Church which Luther rejected and which fought against him—it’s come to this perfect expression of the reductive, abstracted, self-centered Christianity that Luther (whether intentionally or not) initiated: the self-serve communion. Look, Ma, no priests! Or rather: Look, Ma, no (priests’) hands!
See Laura Wood’s discussion of this latest stage of degradation. She asks, What’s next? Take-out?
Luther did not teach that Communion was “a sign and memorial.” You have him confused with Zwingli and the Calvinists. I must protest your errant reading of Luther’s teaching.LA replies:
I quoted it directly from my copy of The Babylonian Captivity, a passage I had underlined and made marginal notes in decades ago. The passage comes a few pages after a new section beginning, “The third captivity of this sacrament is by far the most wicked of all…. ” It comes in a paragraph that begins, “According to its substance, therefore, the mass is nothing but the aforesaid words of Christ … ” And the sentence it appears in (which is part of Luther’s imaginary quotation of Christ, as if he were speaking) is: “And that you may be absolutely certain of this irrevocable promise of mine [of the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting], I shall give my body and pour out my blood, confirming this promise by my very death, and leaving you my body and blood as a sign and memorial of this same promise.”Buck writes:
Wow. Synchronicity. Though you posted this entry two hours ago, I just turned to it by happenstance. I am watching Empires: Martin Luther (2002) on NetFlix. The Seven Catholic Sacraments were just mentioned as part of the telling about Martin Luther’s The Babylonian Captivity. I paused a moment to google The Seven Catholic Sacraments to review them and then, rather than return to the program straight away, I thought to click on VFR to see what’s up. There it is. Your entry is on the very thing that I am watching, at the very moment that I am watching it.LA replies:
To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Falstaff (in Henry IV Part II, Act I, Scene 2), I am not only synchronicitous in myself, but the cause that synchronicity is in other men. :-)November 15
Debra C. writes:
During the entire thirty-minute drive into town for Bible Study I chastised myself for being so abrupt and terse with you in my earlier missive. There was so much that I wanted to say, felt compelled to write to correct immediately what I saw was a false reading of Luther (to correct for your benefit and for that of your impressionable (?) readers) that I let tact fly out the window. I’m sorry. I don’t like to be testy; and I was. I also felt frustrated because I wish I had a pastor’s knowledge and could summon at will the medicine I thought needed to be delivered. [LA replies: I didn’t feel at all that you were being testy. Put your mind to rest on that. Also, I’m aware there’s a large controversy about what Luther said about the communion. I’m aware of his own later statements strongly disputing the claim that he said that the bread and wine were a sign; I googled the issue yesterday and read them while I was preparing the post. But there it is, in the passage from The Babylonian Captivity that I quoted.]LA replies:
I don’t have enough knowledge of this issue to respond to you properly. My view of it was formed by the quoted passage in The Babylonian Captivity which I read many years ago. I felt that when Luther said that taking the bread and wine was a “sign” of faith and not an act of substantive communion with Jesus Christ, he had gone beyond attacking abuses, and was redefining the core of Christianity (the core of Christianity that had personally converted me to Christianity) into a mental event, an assertion of one’s faith that one is saved, rather than a relationship with Christ. As I mentioned above, I am aware that Luther strongly disputed the claim that he had said that the bread and wine were a “sign.” But he did say it. At the same time I admit that I need to read further to have a better understanding of the issue.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 14, 2012 06:28 PM | Send