Lecture in the Symposium “Luther. Katholizität und Reform. Wurzeln – Wege – Wirkungen” September 2014, Augustinerkloster Erfurt

First of all I want to thank cordially the Johann-Adam-Möhler-Institut and its’ associates for the kind invitation to this Luther Symposium and your real presence here. Luther’s understanding of the Eucharist fits the general theme of our Symposium on catholicity and reform well. In his so called anti-spiritualistic writings Luther is a “catholic” while in these writings he defends the sacramental realism, that is the doctrine of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and the wine, against mere spiritualistic understandings of the Eucharist.


On the other hand in many practical and liturgical solutions he was a “reformist”. Some of the reforms, like the removal of the Eucharistic prayer, have not been accepted widely, not even in the Churches of the Reformation. But many other reforms are widely accepted both in the Lutheran Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. For example, according to the Second Vatican Council, the homily is an integral part of the mass. The Council prefers the vernacular language (instead of latin), a common mass (instead of a private), and the distribution of both the bread and the wine (instead of using only the bread, una specie). One could almost hear Luther whispering: “Great job this time, dear council fathers, thank you very much!”


Several studies have been published on Luther’s doctrine of the Eucharist, primarily in the area of systematic theology. To this group belong, for example, the studies of Albrecht Peters, Herman Sasse, Fredrik Cleve, Harmut Hilgenfeld, Tom Hardt, Eckhard Lessing and Wolfang Simon.[1] – I am also happy to see here Dr. Bishop Jobst Schöne who has published an important study on “Saligerische Abendmahlstreit”.[2] (I have also been happy to meet Dr. Bishop Jobst Schöne who has published an important study on “Saligerische Abendmahlstreit”).


In addition to this, Luther’s liturgic reform dating back to the 1520s has been debated to this very day. I wish to mention in relation to thisas examples the studies of Vilmos Vajta, Hans Bernhard Meyer and Reinhard Messner.[3] In those studies more in the sphere of practical theology, there has been a special emphasis placed on the question of what should be thought of Luther’s decision to remove the Roman Canon Prayer (canon missae). Some contend that the decision was justified but there are more who claim that this resolution of Luther’s was liturgically clumsy, even when considering it from his own theological point of view.[4] I myself tend to favor the latter option. It is my desire to combine the systematic and practical dimensions since, at the heart of the matter, in the Eucharist itself doctrine and practice are interlinked.


There are many distinguished doctors present here, and I assume that you already know very much about this subject. However, it might be useful to try to clarify three questions. 1) What is Luther’s understanding of the Eucharist? 2) How does this understanding explain the reforms in liturgy and practice? 3) In what sense might we regard Luther as a doctor communis for both Lutherans and Roman Catholics and how could Luther challenge both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches of our time in a positive way?


The following points are based on my dissertation “The Sacrament of Faith and Love. The Connection between doctrine and practice in Luther’s Theology of the Eucharist”, published in 2004 in the Finnish language.


Luther’s Sacramental Realism and Modern Protestantism


For Luther the significance of the sacraments was indisputable, yet the same cannot be said of all Luther researchers. Around the turn of the 20th century, both romantic theology and liberal protestantism emphasized the subjective dimension of faith to the extent that these had great difficulty understanding why Jesus had to go and institute outward rituals such as baptism and the Eucharist.



Theologians such as Friedrich Schleiermacher, Adolf von Harnack and Wilhelm Dilthey either overtly or covertly represent the notion the Lutheran Reformation carried out a de-sacramentalisation programme (Entsakramentalisierung). It was maintained that the Reformation led Christianity away from the narrow Roman Catholic sacramentalism bound to materialistic-magical thinking, freeing it up to an inner religion (Verinnerlichung und Vergeisterung der Religion).[5] This leeds to the question: if sacraments were not important in (evangelical) Christianity, then why Luther wrote so much about the sacraments and defended them so vehemently? This was explained away as either a blunder or a remnant of the past: Luther took the first steps away from sacramentalism but did not understand to give it up altogether. Many enlightened researchers want to correct him and lend a hand to this process now.


But a quick glance at Luther’s writings opens up a different world. They reveal that Luther and his supporters considered the proper understanding and celebration of the Eucharist of crucial importance, both for the individual and for the church. For Luther the doctrine of justification by faith and the doctrine of the sacraments belong together as signs of Christ real presence. Salvation through God’s free gift of faith is possible only through the word and sacraments in which Christ is present, and through which the Holy Spirit works. “Amongst us the Holy Spirit is not present in any other way than in the bodily sense, that is, in the word, the water, Christ’s body and his saints.”[6]


From the historical point of view Luther had a passionate battle over the Eucharist on two fronts.[7] In his early writings, such as De captivitate Babylonica, a stand is taken especially on the nominalistic understanding of the mass as a sacrifice.


However, at the end of 1520’s a stand is taken against the spiritualistic understanding. In the Catechisms the articles dealing with the Eucharist are clearly directed more against the spiritualistic concept. Is Luther consistent over these two fronts? Can we find any underlying conviction or idea in Luther’s theology which could explain these two fronts?


God as self-giving love


The underlying factor in the Luther’s doctrine of the Eucharist and his praxis of the Mass is the doctrine of God as self-giving love (agape). This conviction, together with the theology of the cross and sacramental understanding of the word, leads Luther to defend the doctrine of real presence against the spiritualistic interpretations. Furthermore, this conviction leads Luther also to defend the sacramental understanding of the Eucharist against the nominalistic concept of the Mass as a sacrifice.


While the rich medieval spirituality emphasised the question of how people can love God properly and purely, in his early commentaries on the Psalms, Luther turned the question completely around: “This it means to be God: not to receive good but to give it” (hoc est esse Deum: non accipere bona, sed dare).[8] God is an active giver of good things, not a passive receiver of them. This concept of God directs all his thinking, also on the Eucharist. Using expressions corresponding to those in his commentaries on the Psalms, Luther defines the Eucharist as a testament, which is a gift given by God, not received by him (non beneficium acceptum, sed datum).[9]


The close union between the image of God and the doctrine of the Eucharist will later be dealt with in its trinitarian context. In the Large Catechism Luther combines the metaphor of the gift and the doctrine of Trinity when he summarises the message of the Apostles’ Creed: “The Father bestows upon us the entire creation, Christ his completed work and the Holy Spirit all his gifts.”[10] Christ’s presence in the sacraments is a “logical” consequence and concrete expression of nature of Triune God as a self-giving Love.


The Reformer employs almost identical phrases when he summarizes the entire account of Christianity, using this against the spiritualistic concept of the Eucharist in his work Von Abendmahl Christi (Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper). For our topic, this text is especially significant, not only because it deals with the doctrine of the Eucharist but due to its personal nature. Luther meant the book to be his theological testament in a situation where, because of extreme pain, he believed he would soon die:


“These are the three persons and one God, who has given himself to us all wholly and completely, with all that he is and has. The Father gives himself to us, with heaven and earth and all the creatures, in order that they may serve us and benefit us. But this gift has become obscured and useless through Adam’s fall. Therefore the Son himself subsequently gave himself and bestowed all his works, sufferings, wisdom, and righteousness, and reconciled us to the Father, in order that restored to life and righteousness, we might also know and have the Father and his gifts. But because this grace would benefit no one if it remained so profoundly hidden and could not come to us, the Holy Spirit comes and gives himself to us also, wholly and completely. He teaches us to understand this deed of Christ which has been manifested to us, helps us receive and preserve it, use it to our advantage and impart it to others, increase and extend it. He does this both inwardly and outwardly—inwardly by means of faith and other spiritual gifts, outwardly through the gospel, baptism, and the sacrament of the altar, through which as through three means or methods he comes to us and inculcates the sufferings of Christ for the benefit of our salvation … In the same way I also say and confess that in the sacrament of the altar the true body and blood of Christ are orally eaten and drunk in the bread and wine, even if the priests who distribute them or those who receive them do not believe or otherwise misuse the sacrament. It does not rest on man’s belief or unbelief but on the Word and ordinance of God.”[11]


The text brings out the unity between the image of God and the doctrine of the Eucharist. The Eucharist instituted by Christ reflects the love of the triune God. In the Eucharist the grace of God comes to the present moment and is distributed personally to each individual. Without the Eucharist the fruits of Christ’s reconciliatory work remain in the past. If the Word and the Sacraments do not communicate God’s love to new generations, the Christian faith will be narrowed down to an ideology or a moral system.


Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist


While Luther had criticized the concept of transsubstantiation, he still adhered to the traditional sacramental realism of the church: by the power of the Word of God, Christ’s body and blood are really present in the bread and the wine when the priest pronounces the words of consecration.[12] In receiving Holy Communion the Christian is forgiven his or her sins, is united with Christ, and receives, for the strengthening of faith, a concrete sign of his or her participation in the communion of saints and eternal life. The real presence is a consistent outcome of the Incarnation. By the work of the Holy Spirit and by the power of the Word of God, Christ’s presence continues in the sacraments.[13]


The doctrine of justification and real presence belongs together. In the Large Catechism Luther justifies the decisive role of the sacraments in God’s plan of salvation using the old differentiation between Christ’s merit (meritum Christi) and its personal distribution (distributio meriti). The fact of reconciliation is based on the cross, yet the cross does not enter into anyone’s mouth. The Word and the Sacraments are needed in order to share that fact with new generations: “For although the work is accomplished and the forgiveness of sins acquired on the cross, yet it cannot come to us in any other way than through the Word. But now the entire Gospel and the article of the Creed: ‘I believe in a holy Christian Church, the forgiveness of sin, etc.’, are by the Word embodied in this Sacrament and presented to us.”[14]


It is indisputable that Luther held onto the classical doctrine of real presence. Instead of spending any more time proving this matter of fact, I would like to ask what kind of practical consequences this doctrine led him into.



Practical consequences of Luther’s sacramental realism


In a great many liturgical and practical disputes Luther held on to traditional Catholic practices. He accepted elevation, bowing, incense and other forms of adoration directed towards the consecrated elements. These were natural consequences of his sacramental realism. Since Christ is present in the bread and the wine as really as he was in the manger at Christmas, in the house of Peter’s mother-in-law and on the cross on Calvary, it is appropriate to show him worship and adoration in the Mass.[15]


Yet Luther deemed it important that they not be made compulsory. While on the earth, Christ did not demand outward acts of worship, though he did not reject them either. Christ taught faith in God and love toward our neighbours. Faith has the decisive role in this as well, since both God and people in high places are shown respect using the same gestures.


Luther also preserved the old Roman Catholic tradition whereby the communicant receives the Eucharist kneeling which is an act of adoration. This is a living tradition, even a “standard” in many Lutheran Churches, also in Finland.


He also quite deliberately held on to the Catholic practice where the priest distributes the wafer directly to the communicant’s mouth rather than into the hand. While Luther was hiding in the Castle of Wartburg, some of his supporters had started to demand that the wafer be placed in the communicants’ hands because Christ had said in the Words of Institution “Take and eat” and Luther had in fact written that the praxis of the Mass had to be arranged exactly on the basis of the institution account. After returning from his hide-out in Wartburg, Luther put an end to the dispute in his eight sermons titled “Invocavit”. If the sign of a good Christian was that he or she takes the wafer in the hand, in that case “even a pig would pass for a good Christian as it can receive the wafer with its trotter.”[16] Luther considered it quite possible to distribute the wafer to each person’s hand, but out of respect for the sacrament he preserved the old tradition in Wittenberg; the wafer was distributed to the communicants’ mouths.



The issue of post-consecration and the handling of post-communion consecrated elements


The facts concerning how the elements are handled in the Mass and thereafter reveals a great deal concerning what Luther believed about the Eucharist and what is taught about it. In his last years of life, Luther participated in two debates about how the Eucharistic elements were to be handled in practice. Research has paid surprisingly little attention to these two. These debates dealt with post-consecration, ie. what should be done in case the supply of consecrated wafers or wine would become exhausted in the middle of the distribution as well as the handling of the post-communion consecrated elements. Are they ordinary bread or the body of Christ?


The problem of post-consecration is well illuminated by an incident in 1545 in the town of Friesnietz. Pr Adam Besserer assisted in the distribution of the Eucharist on the Third Sunday in Advent. The number of communicants was known beforehand as they had to come to confession prior to the Mass. So the exact number of wafers was reserved for the Eucharist.


When distributing the Eucharist to the last communicant Besserer noticed that the wafers had run out. For some reason he had misplaced one of them. He resolved the problem by fetching an unconsecrated wafer from the host box after which he distributed that wafer. Soon afterwards the misplaced wafer was found and put back. Now Besserer made a second and even more fatal error: he slipped the consecrated wafer back into the host box among the unconsecrated wafers.


This became a scandal and Besserer was suspended from office. The theologians at Wittenberg University were asked for counsel on whether this was a matter of abuse and if so, what sanctions should be taken. Together with Johannes Bugenhagen, Luther replied in a letter dated 11 January 1546 only six weeks prior to his death.


The reply from Wittenberg was unambiguous. Luther considered that the way the minister handled the matter was abuse. As Besserer returned the recovered consecrated wafer to where the unconsecrated wafers were kept, he indicated that he held the consecrated and the unconsecrated wafers to be the same thing. This, to the theologians of Wittenberg, was not only a sign of pastoral negligence but nothing other than godlessness.[17] Dispensing with a consecrated wafer could be explained away as carelessness, placing it back among the unconsecrated wafers was already deliberate. Possibly the theologians of Wittenberg were aggravated by a rumour according to which Besserer at first defended his act, claiming that there was no specific difference between the consecrated and the unconsecrated wafers.[18]


In Luther’s opinion Besserer confessed with his action that he was a Zwinglian and a denier of Christ’s real presence. Therefore he deemed it self-evident that the minister in question was to be removed from office and excommunicated: “Let him go to the Zwinglians!”[19]


The issue of the handling of the post-communion consecrated elements raised a heated correspondence between Wittenberg and Eisleben in the summer of 1543. A minister from Eisleben by the name of Wolferinus thought that the consecrated Eucharistic elements were merely ordinary elements (mera elementa) after the Mass, which is why they did not need to be handled as sacraments. He based his action on the slogan he had learned from the Reformators, according to which he claimed that the sacraments did not exist outside the sacramental act itself (nullum sacramentum extra actionem sacramentalem).


Wolferinus had learned this slogan from the theologians of Wittenberg. To begin with, the words were developed to criticize and reject such Catholic traditions of popular piety where the sacraments were used for purposes other than those for which Jesus had instituted them. According to the idea behind these words, the sacrament was correct only in the proper usage, ie. in use according to Jesus’ intent, not in such things as healing leprosy with baptismal water or blessing fields with hosts. Wolferinus went too far in reaching conclusions on this doctrine of in usu by thinking that the real presence ends the moment the Mass is over.


Luther protested strongly against this in his two letters, and was also joined in this by Bugenhagen.[20] He thought it was a scandal that the priest in question saw fit to mix the consecrated bread and wine with the unconsecrated elements after the Mass. The Reformator asked who the priest had learned this from and whose example he was following.


Luther rebuked Wolferinus for arousing, in general, with his incorrect use, speculation over the duration of the real presence, which was both dogmatically and pastorally “a scandalous and detrimental issue”.[21] First, it was dangerous to claim to know for certain when the real presence ended. Secondly, the disrespectful behaviour of the said minister harmed the congregation’s sense of faith and aroused offence and sophistry. Soon the claim of Zwinglianism echoed: “You sound Zwinglian and I am beginning to believe that you are involved in their insanities.”[22]


While urging Wolferinus to get back in line, Luther also exposed the normal use of Wittenberg, according to which the clergy or the last communicants finished all the elements. This is how no further pastoral or theological problems evolved: “You can well do as we do, that is drink and eat the rest of the elements with a few communicants, so that no hurtful or detrimental questions would arise about the duration of the sacramental act, questions you will choke on if you do not soon come to your senses.”[23]


Luther reminded Wolferinus that he had learned the concept of in usu from the theologians of Wittenberg (not the other way around) but applied it incorrectly. The Reformator’s train of thought reflects the concept according to which the Eucharist is both a created reality (factus) and an act (actus). In an ontological sense the consecrated bread is a new essence or element (factus) and eating it is an act.


In the second letter Luther defined the sacramental act broadly, so that apart from the consecration and the communion, also the remaining elements were to be finished. This was both theologically the safest and pastorally the most expedient usage: “Thus we are free and safe from all unsolved questions, gnawing at the conscience and offensive to it.”[24]



The sacrament of unity and love


For Luther the Eucharist is a sacrament of faith: it is an act of obedience of the individual which strengthens his or her faith in God. But does this lead to some kind of individualistic understanding of the sacrament? The Lutheran Franz Pieper and the Roman Catholics Joseph Ratzinger and Louis Bouyer maintain that Luther somehow reduced the Eucharist to a supper for the forgiveness of sins of an individual.[25]


We may receive this impression if we only read the disputed writings of 1520 or Catechisms. Despite that this viewpoint does not do justice to Luther’s concept of the Eucharist.


Since the Eucharist reflects God’s self-giving love and brings Christ to the communicant, it also has a horizontal dimension in Luther’s theology. The Eucharist unites the Christian with Christ and his saints. But it also creates communion among people attending the Eucharist. Therefore, the Eucharist is also a meal of common thanksgiving, meal of the public commemoration of Christ, meal of confession of common faith and a meal of communion.[26]


The nature of communion in the Eucharist is vividly present in Luther’s sermon on The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ and the Brotherhoods, 1519. Luther starts the sermon unambiguously by stating that the significance or effect of this sacrament is the communion of all saints.


According to Luther the Eucharist is a visible sign of the union of all Christians with Christ and other Christians. It is like a visible proof and seal of belonging to the Kingdom of God, whose head is Christ, and whose citizens include both saints still struggling in this world and saints who have already reached home. According to the Reformator, the old name of the Eucharist communio, and its derivation communicatio, portrays its contents very well, meaning doing something together and sharing gifts. Through the Sacrament of the Altar all the good from Christ and his saints will become shared property. Similarly, one person’s anxiety, suffering and sin will belong to everyone:


“The significance or effect of this sacrament is the communion of all saints. From this it derives its common name synaxis or communio, that is, fellowship. And the Latin communicare, or as we say in German, zum sacrament gehen, means to take part in this fellowship . . . This communion consists in this, that all the spiritual possessions of Christ and his saints are shared with and become the common property of him who receives this sacrament. Again all sufferings and sins also become common property; and thus love engenders love in return and mutual love unites.”[27]


This communion taking place in love is a reciprocal sharing both between Christ and a Christian and among Christians. Christ gives Christians all good things, his grace, holiness and righteousness, making them partakers of both his life and suffering. Therefore at the Eucharist both the bread and the wine are distributed, which elements symbolised life and suffering in the Old Testament.[28] Christians give Christ their own anxiety, misery, angst and sin. This sharing is not only vertical but is to take place among people as well. Those in communion with one another are to give all their good things to be shared and respectively own the wants and needs of others. In this sense the Eucharist has a strong ecclesial and ethical dimension, similar to baptism:


”Christ with all saints, by his love, takes upon himself our form (Phil. 2:7), fights with us against sin, death, and all evil. This enkindles in us such love that we take on his form, rely upon his righteousness, life, and blessedness. And through the interchange of his blessings and our misfortunes, we become one loaf, one bread, one body, one drink, and have all things in common. O this is a great sacrament, says St. Paul, that Christ and the church are one flesh and bone. Again through this same love, we are to be changed and to make the infirmities of all other Christians our own; we are to take upon ourselves their form and their necessity, and all the good that is within our power we are to make theirs, that they may profit from it. That is real fellowship, and that is the true significance of this sacrament. In this way we are changed into one another and are made into a community by love. Without love there can be no such change.”[29]


In his sermon of 1519 Luther uses surprisingly strong expressions concerning the change of the elements of the Eucharist. Some researchers say these expressions are to be interpreted as symbolic.[30] The Luther expressions are, however, real not just symbolic.


The “changing” of the bread and the wine is spoken of in many Early Church liturgies and written about by theologians as far back as a thousand years before the doctrine of transsubstantiation. The Reformer can also talk about the “change” of the bread and the wine despite his criticism of the concept of transubstantiation. In his thinking the “change” taking place in Christians on the one hand and the “change” of bread and wine on the other hand are not disconnected, but belong together. While the congregation’s change and growth into a community of love becomes possible on the basis that the bread and the wine “change” to Christ’s real body and blood, yet the Eucharist was not instituted for naught but for the very reason that the congregation might “change” and grow into a community of love. Both are real and require the other:


“Besides all this, Christ did not institute these two forms solitary and alone, but he gave his true natural flesh in the bread, and his natural true blood in the wine, that he might give a really perfect sacrament or sign. For just as the bread is changed into his true natural body and the wine into his natural true blood, so truly are we also drawn and changed into the spiritual body, that is, into the fellowship of Christ and all saints and by this sacrament put into possession of all the virtues and mercies of Christ and his saints.”[31]


The nature of the Eucharist, that it is public and serves to enhance fellowship, also has its own practical consequences regarding those who intend to partake of it. According to Luther, a Mass officiated by a priest for his own private devotion is in conflict with the communion nature of the Eucharist.[32]


On the other hand he also rejected the notion of arranging the Eucharist in a private home without a minister. Parents are to teach the gospel to their families, but the Eucharist was instituted as a public remembrance of Christ and as the meal of church communion so the one officiating it is to be a minister ordained into public office, that is priesthood.[33] The communion nature of the Eucharist requires that both a congregation and an ordained minister be present.


Here, it seems to me that currently practices differ between the German and Scandinavian Lutheran Churches. According to the Finnish and Swedish Lutheran Churches, the Eucharist can be led and celebrated only by a minister who is ordained and authorized by a validy consecrated bishop. This principal is also clearly expressed in the ecumenical paper “Justification in the Life of the Church”, between the Lutheran and Catholic Churches of Sweden and Finland.[34]


Criticism of the Scholastic doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass


Luther fought disputes concerning the Eucharist on two fronts. At the onset of the Reformation, in the early 1520s, he discussed the doctrine of transubstantiation, the distribution of wine to lay people as well as the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist with the Catholic Scholastics of his time. The sacrificial interpretation of the Mass offended Luther the most. It was to him a most ungodly abuse.


The increase in the sacrificial nature of the Mass has gone through a great many phases and it has included many models. According to St Augustine each sacrifice and the act of offering (offere) includes four parts or components: 1) the recipient or the one to whom the sacrifice is given (cui offeratur), 2) the donor or the one who gives (a quo), 3) the gift or what is given (quid), as well as 4) the beneficiary (benefitor) or the one for whom it is given (pro quibus).[35] It is to be noted that the Mass can be understood as a sacrifice in various ways. In the Middle Ages there were many patterns as to who or what was the recipient, the subject, the gift or the beneficiary.[36]


According to Thomas of Aquinas, celebrating the Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice . The Eucharist can be seen as a sacrifice for three reasons. First, it is the representative image of Christ’s suffering; secondly, in it the Lord’s suffering is jointly remembered; finally, it communicates the fruits of Christ’s passion to those partaking of it.[37] Luther would not have had difficulty accepting such a view.


Later in the Middle Ages, especially among some Nominalists, the notion of the sacrifice, however, gained more and more anthropocentric emphases. It was taught that Christ’s death reconciled us from original sin, but to reconcile for daily sins we need the sacrifice of the Mass. The more the Eucharist gained an independent sacrificial position beside the sacrifice of Christ, the more strongly it seemed to be in conflict with the New Testament, according to which Christ’s sacrifice was once for all, complete and adequate (Heb 10:10). The more the priest was emphasized as the active officiator of the sacrifice, the more passive role was afforded to the sacrificial offering of Christ. The more teaching was offered on how the fruits of the sacrifice of the Mass were to benefit absent parishioners and those in purgatory, the more instrumental value was conferred upon the Eucharist.


The Second Council of Lyon had defined the officiation of the Eucharistic sacrifice as one way to bring relief to souls in purgatory.[38] This strengthened the position of the Votive Masses, where the parishioner purchased a Mass from a priest on behalf of a reason or a person. The priest celebrated the Votive Mass alone joining the intercessory prayers to the Canon Prayers of the Mass. The Mass, administered in Latin and partially in an inaudible voice, left the parishioners with the role of a passive audience.


Luther strongly resisted the pattern where the priest was interpreted as offering up the sacrifice and parishioners, absent and in purgatory, were the beneficiaries. The problem was worsened by the fact that the Mass could be purchased from a priest.


Criticism of the implicit doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass and of the image of God it called for came out early in Luther’s 1518 sermon on the Eucharist. According to the central claim of the sermon, God is not a tax collector or a revenger, who expects outward deeds and sacrifices from people, but rather a savior and a giver of gifts, who desires faith from the heart and a confident trust. The real communicant is a person who confesses his or her sins and unworthiness and who believes that grace is bestowed gratuitously in the Eucharist. The expressions describing God, “not needy” and “generous”, indicate that in the sacrament of the Eucharist God is the giver of the gift, not its recipient: “God does not need (non indicus) any of your good things, but he will come to you and bestow upon you generously (largus) of his own good supply.”[39]


Luther openly attacked the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass in three of his early writings, 1520-21.

According to him the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass presents an altogether false image of God. In his work The Misuse of the Mass (De abroganda missa privata), Luther emphatically declares that the one who considers the Mass a sacrifice wants to reconcile and placate God. And the one who wishes to reconcile God must consider him to be angry, expecting placation (iratum et implacatum). Anyone believing in an irate God thus expects from him more anger than love, more malevolence than good. So the theologians of the sacrifice of the Mass have confused the entire Christian faith because “they have turned divine love into anger, made the Father an enemy, created hell of heaven, traded the completed work of reconciliation for an incomplete task.”[40] They seem to believe in a god who has in his anger closed the gates to heaven and opened the doors to hell, not because of people’s sins or the neglect of the Ten Commandments but because God Himself is “a tyrannical judge and a tax collector”.[41]


According to Luther the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass also distorts the doctrine of justification, as it gives the impression that celebrating the Mass, partaking of it or purchasing one is a meritorious act, by which God has mercy on people and receives them to his bosom; thus the uniqueness of Christ’s death, gratuitous grace and the significance of faith are all bypassed. Luther considered the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass such a serious distortion that he hoped it would become the main theme for an ecumenical council.[42]


Practical consequences of the criticism directed at Scholasticism


The Roman Catholic Johannes Eck defended the distribution of mere bread to the lay people using John 6:51: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (Jn 6:51), while the Reformed Zwingli rejected the real presence with another verse from the same gospel: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (Jn 6:63).  Luther contended that John’s Gospel had to be considered, but it could not have a decisive position for the doctrine and practice of the Eucharist, because it was a matter of dispute whether those verses spoke about the Eucharist.[43]


According to Luther, in the interpretation of both the doctrine of the Eucharist and the practice of the Mass, decisive importance was to be placed on the accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. The basis for assessing whether a Mass was proper was the first Eucharist instituted by Christ: “The Mass is the more Christian, the more it resembles the first Mass officiated by Christ.”[44] The gospel accounts of the institution shows how the Eucharist is to be properly celebrated (recht halten) and how it is to be understood correctly (recht vorstahn). They are an absolute minimum; they have nothing extra, nothing unnecessary. They also have everything adequately, missing nothing that belongs to the perfect integrity, use, or efficacy of the sacrament.[45]


Thus the rite divinely instituted by Christ entails bringing forth the bread and the wine, giving thanks, blessing these elements, breaking the bread and distributing the consecrated gifts.[46] Everything else is a later addition or human tradition. Apart from the Canon Prayer of the Mass, Luther nevertheless did not remove the other parts of the Roman Mass, preserving the Liturgy of the Word nearly unaltered. In 1523 in the renewed Order of the Mass, Formula missae, Luther kept practically all the sections of the Latin mass of the Western church (such as the Psalm Introit, the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Collect Prayer, the Epistle, the Gospel, the Gradual, the Alleluia, the Creed, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei and the Communion Hymn). According to him these parts gave proof of the “original purity of the early church”, beautified the celebration of the Eucharist and imparted the word of God both in a read and sung form among the people.[47]


Luther was both doctrinally and liturgically a traditionalist, yet his theology of the Eucharist led to the change of some practices concerning the Mass.[48] As the first consequence of Luther’s protest, Votive Masses were abolished. This question was not about a harmless detail but had significant spiritual and economic consequences. To give an example: in the church of a small town the size of Wittenberg with a population of some 2,500, as many as 8,994 Masses were administered under the sponsorship of a certain foundation during 1519, which makes an average of 24 Masses per day.[49] Many priests made a living from Votive Masses. Thus the critique of the Reformation took away their livelihood. Apart from Votive Masses, also Private Masses were discontinued, which the priest administered without the congregation for his own devotion, even though they did not include such abuse as did the Votive Masses.[50]


The second change was to begin to distribute the two elements to the congregation as well. Luther did not consider the distribution of mere bread, or the Eucharist in one kind, wrong as such. To be exact, Luther’s protest had been directed at the magisterium of the church denying the distribution of the wine to the parishioners, as Luther believed it did not have that right. The Words of Institution unequivocally indicate that Christ also distributed the wine to each and everyone, which tradition was reinforced by the patristic sources to be in accord with the Early Church.[51] Concerning the issue of the chalice for the laity, Luther’s stand became stricter. Back in the early 1520s he supported the idea that during the phase of transition all could act according to their consciences. At the end of the 1520s he stated that the congregation had received enough instruction on the matter so the distribution of the bread alone did not need to be allowed any longer.


Thirdly, the minister began to read the Words of Institution in a loud voice to the congregation, at first in Latin, but later in the vernacular as well. Traditionally, Luther regarded the Words of Institution as words of consecration directed towards the elements. But they were also words of promise, including a promise of Christ’s presence and the forgiveness of sins. Therefore they were to be read or sung aloud so that every person would be able to hear them and believe them.[52] The Lutheran speciality was that they were also used as the words of distribution. As the receiving of the Eucharist called for faith, it also called for the presence and participation of the believer.


Fourthly, Luther removed the entire Canon Prayer of the Mass from its proximity to the Words of Institution. This Canon Prayer, to be read prior to the distribution of the Eucharist, consisted of some twelve prayers. The majority of the Eucharistic prayers of the Eastern Church were named after the Church Fathers and they often proceeded in accordance with the contents of the Creed, the emphasis being on the remembrance of God’s saving deeds.[53] On the other hand, the origin of the Canon Prayer is obscure.  Nor does it have a consistently proceeding sequence. The prayers emphasize supplication and the sacrifice which is offered up by the congregation.[54]



Discussion on the removal of the Canon Prayer of the Mass


Luther removed almost the entire canon missae prayer read before the Eucharist. The underlying reason was found in the wording of the prayer, which in Luther’s words “sounded and smelled like a sacrifice”.[55] The solution was a radical one as the prayer was and is the heart of the Mass, parallel to the distribution of the elements. Several theological and liturgical revelations of Luther’s have been later adopted across denominational borders, yet the amputation of the Eucharistic prayer has raised critical discussion.


As early as 1930 when his book came out, Yngve Brilioth assessed that Luther was lucid and deep in his doctrine of the Eucharist but as a liturgist he was impractical. He thought that by removing the prayers from the mere Words of Institution Luther destroyed the liturgy of the Eucharist, leaving a mere torso.[56] William D. Maxwell said that Luther’s way of dealing with the Canon was “negative, illogical and subversive” and that even Luther’s own theology would not have demanded that removal. Luther’s solution has also been criticized by a great many researchers in different churches.[57] Many felt Luther over-emphasized the pedagogic dimension of the Mass, which meant that prayer and thanksgiving were overshadowed. By emphasizing the mere Words of Institution as a formula of consecration and by removing the prayers around these words Luther was more papal than the Pope himself. Luther went all the way to the end of a path which was problematic from the start.[58]


A more positive assessment has been given by Bryan D. Spinks[59] and representatives of confessional Lutheranism Oliver Olson, Gottfried Krodel, and Armand Boehme.[60] These were joined by Dorothea Wendebourg, a German professor, who in her 1997 inauguratory presentation set out to strongly support Luther’s solution, deeming it exemplary.


Wendebourg stated that Luther’s solution was a necessary liturgical consequence of his doctrine of justification. The Words of Institution are to be clearly separated from the surrounding prayers, because the Words of Institution are about God’s act (actio Dei) whereas the prayer is the congregation’s act (actio ecclesia). In the Western Mass the ascending, ie. anabatic, sacrificial dimension threatens to override  the descending, ie. katabatic, sacramental dimension. In her evaluation of the current liturgical movement where the worship service is seen as an offering of thanksgiving, instead of being God’s gift, Wendebourg finds the same problematic anthropocentric development to hold true. Luther both adhered to the Western liturgical tradition and made the necessary alterations by disentangling he Words of Institution from the surrounding prayers. The reading of merely the Words of Institution thus consistently expresses the Lutheran doctrine of justification.[62]


It can be stated in Luther’s defence that the Canon of the Mass is ambiguous as a text. Luther was unable to go beyond the distorted sacrificial interpretations of his time in his reading of the Canon, nor could he reach the “original” interpretation of the Canon, which might have been more acceptable to him. On the other hand, the Canon of the Mass includes parts from such different times that one may wonder if it has actually got an original interpretation. At any rate there are good grounds to consider Luther’s resolution too extreme—one of them being his own doctrine of justification which does not render this removal necessary.


Wendebourg’s theses have a few problems. First, Luther’s critique of the Canon was not directed at the prayer itself but at the wording of the prayer. It is a specific wording that “sounded and smelled like a sacrifice”. This also comes out conversely, in the Formula missae he expressly preserved the Preface he approved of, which was also part of the Canon Prayer. Secondly, Luther’s theology does not contain a polarity between God’s promises and human prayers. Luther says that what God specifically promises, people are to pray for. This is plainly stated in the explanation to the Lord’s Prayer in the Large Catechism: “Just as the name of God is in itself holy, we pray nevertheless that it may be holy among us.”[63]


Thirdly, the Words of Institution themselves call for the context of prayer. According to the account of the institution, Jesus took bread and “gave thanks to God”, meaning that he read an ordinary Jewish table grace. The Christian prayer of the Eucharist has risen out of the Words of Institution. It would be anachronistic to think that Jesus took the bread and read the Words of Institution from a synoptic gospel. If, as does Luther, we view the first Eucharist the norm for the celebration of the Mass, then after the bringing forth of the bread and the wine comes giving thanks to God and remembering his good deeds in prayer. Thanksgiving logically means that something good has happened to people. Thanksgiving and the whole liturgy is a reaction to God’s saving action. In this sense, too, the prayer of the Eucharist fits well with Luther’s own doctrine of justification.


The mechanical separation of God’s act and that of the congregation in the liturgical event would lead to both practical and theological problems. In the liturgy God’s and the congregation’s acts are concentric and interpenetrating. When we study the phenomenon of the Mass with the five senses, we only perceive the congregation’s offering of thanksgiving and human actions: people pray, read the Bible, sing hymns, consecrate the bread and the wine and distribute the sacrament. From the viewpoint of the promise in God’s word, the thanksgiving offered by the congregation becomes God’s act.[64] To use the famous principle of St Augustine: the congregational offering of thanksgiving is the element that God’s word attaches itself to and penetrates. On the basis of God’s own promise he is present and works in and through the act of the congregation. If we said that this matter concerns God’s and people’s cooperation, we would be quite right.


In hindsight we might speculate that had Luther known more about the divinely centred and more descending, ie. katabatic, sacramental prayers of the Eastern Church, he might have replaced the Canon Prayer with one of these—or reconstructed a new one. For good reason, many Lutheran churches have ended up with such solutions today.



Luther’s positive understanding of sacrifice


In the field of research, a Protestant paradigm prevailed for a long time, according to which Luther unequivocally rejected all kinds of talk about the sacrifice of the Mass, as that was considered to represent Roman Catholicism and false religiosity.[65] It is true that Luther strongly criticized the then current concept of the Mass as a sacrifice. Nevertheless, our image of Luther is not clear enough. The New Testament often speaks in a positive sense of the sacrifice and of sacrificing, and Christians are admonished to offer God spiritual sacrifice (Rm 12:1; 1. Pt 2:5; Hb 13:15-16). Luther does the same. In his 1520 sermon on the Eucharist, for example, he claims that “it is not only permissible but also useful to call the Mass a sacrifice.”[66] How are these disparate points to be explained?


In the 1980s researchers such as Juhani Forsberg and Robert Jenson noticed that Luther also had an alternative theology of the sacrifice.[67] The Roman Catholic Reinhardt Messner in his dissertation in the 1990s contemplated, without prejudice, if Luther could also be a theologian supporting the sacrifice of the Mass (Theologe des Messopfers).[68] Finally, Wolfgang Simon in his massive study proved that Luther had an alternative theology of the sacrifice of the Mass. According to Simon, Luther did discard the interpretation of such a doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass where the priest sacrificed the body and blood of Christ for the benefit of absent, live, parishioners and for those dead in Purgatory. Despite this, according to Simon one could find from Luther the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass.[69]


In Luther’s thinking a sacrifice always has a reactive, or as Simon puts it, an “aposterior” nature. The sacrifice of the Mass cannot be an act whereby people aim to do their best to make God love them but it is always a reaction in which people respond to the saving deed already accomplished by God. A reactive act calls for faith: by believing in God’s once for all saving deed on the cross, people confess God to be God, who acts first and who wills good things to them.


First, according to Luther, the Mass is called a sacrifice on the basis of the gifts of food and money, to be brought to the celebration and to be distributed among people: “We need to differentiate very clearly what we sacrifice and what we do not. The word ‘sacrifice’ has no doubt come about and kept its status in connection with the Eucharist, because during the Apostles’ time, when certain Old Testament traditions were still observed, Christians brought together food, money, and other useful things to be divided to those in need, in connection with the Mass.”[70]


Underlying this way of speaking is the tradition of the Early Christians to bring food and money to the Mass as gifts of God’s creative work. Some of these were given to people suffering from want and some were set aside for holy use in the Eucharist. The giver would be a well-to-do parishioner, the gift is the shared wealth or property, the recipient and the beneficiary is the parishioner in need. Such a sacrifice is a social one because the communication of the gift takes place among people. The term does not refer to sacrifice but to the gifts of creation brought forth and the prayers attached to them.


According to an old tradition, the bread and the wine to be used at the Eucharist were separated from among the gifts (though this tradition gradually faded). According to Luther the bread and the wine as gifts of God’s creative work were a part of the offering of thanksgiving. At the beginning of the Eucharistic liturgy they were brought forth and offered as signs of the congregation’s gratitude. But as soon as they were consecrated, they became the sacrament which was not sacrificed to God but distributed to people as God’s gift.[71]


Secondly, Luther speaks about the sacrifice in the sense that in the Eucharist the congregation is giving and offering itself to God. In this case the one sacrificing is not only the priest ordained into office but each Christian baptised into the common priesthood through baptism, meaning the entire congregation. And furthermore the sacrificial gift is not Christ’s body and blood but the whole persona of the Christian:  Christians give God themselves, their will, their thanksgiving and praise.


Such a concept comes out especially in the work Misuse of the Mass. Apart from praying and teaching, the intrinsic task of the priesthood is to offer sacrifice. In the New Covenant, sacrifice however concerns all Christians not only priests. Since in the New Testament the priesthood is made common by naming all baptized believers “the holy and royal priesthood”, therefore sacrificing is also common, and belongs to  everyone.[72] Since sacrificing is the task of the common priesthood, it follows then that the status of donor belongs to the entire congregation.


What does Luther mean by giving of oneself? In the New Covenant sacrificing is above all spiritual:

to this belongs the mortification of the sin in oneself, private and communal  prayer, the thank offering in the divine service (sacrificium laudis) as well as sacrificing oneself, ie. giving oneself to be used by God as an object of his work (seipsum offere). Ultimately the last item includes the following of the suffering Christ, ie. the entire Christian life based on faith and love.[73]


These concepts of sacrifice are presented, for example, in a sermon on the Eucharist of 1520.

When by gift we mean sacrament, Christ in the bread and the wine, people cannot be benefactors nor can God be the recipient. It is just the other way around: in the sacrament “God gives us everything.” But it is acceptable to call the Mass a sacrifice when by gift we mean thanksgiving in the divine service and giving of oneself.[74] In the Mass people can be ascribed to the position of donor and God the position of recipient when the gift means a thanksgiving rising from faith and Christians’ offering themselves.


Luther’s On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church makes a corresponding distinction between the sacrament and the sacrifice. According to Luther people give and sacrifice prayers to God but not the Mass, ie. the sacrament (non Missa sed orationes offerantur Deo). When the Scholastic doctrine of the Mass as a sacrifice understands the consecrated elements to be the people’s gift, Luther in a way replaces them with prayer. The Eucharist descends whereas prayer ascends. The Eucharist is a sacrament and a testament which comes from God to us (a Deo ad nos) through the service of the minister and it requires  faith. On the other side, prayer is a sacrifice and a good deed which rises from our faith to God (a fide nostra ad Deum) through the service of the minister and it requires hearing.[75] Luther can thus easily accept a constellation where people are understood as being in the position of donors and God that of a recipient. The sacrifice in this is not the sacrament but the intercessory prayer.


Thirdly, Luther calls the Mass a sacrifice because in it “Christ sacrifices us”. “We learn from these words that we do not sacrifice Christ but Christ offers us. It is in this very sense that it is not only permissible but also useful to call the Mass a sacrifice, not for the Mass itself, but because we sacrifice ourselves with Christ.”[76] In the cult of Christianity, prayer, thanksgiving, praise and self-sacrifice are thus not brought directly to God but everything takes place through Christ.[77] This concept is seen in the closing formula of the Collect and Eucharistic prayers, ie. per Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum or per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso.


The idea of the two subjects of giving, ie. those of Christ and the congregation, as part of Luther’s third model, is not unique within the history of theology. Both the modern liturgical movement as well as present-day Roman Catholic theology stress the doctrine of Christ as a primary subject of the liturgy. Christ is not only the object of the liturgy celebrated by the congregation but also a subject who works in and through the liturgy of the congregation. Luther says this principal in a his way: “Christ is the cook, the server, the food and the drink of Holy Communion.”[78]


Despite his strong criticism directed at the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass, Luther has his own positive theory of the Mass as a sacrifice. The Mass can be called a sacrifice in the sense that 1) in connection with the Mass Christians give of their earthly goods to their needy fellowmen, and 2) they give to the Heavenly Father as a spiritual sacrifice their will, thanksgiving, praise and their entire persons as well as 3) they give themselves in Christ, through him and with him. The bread and the wine can in themselves as good gifts of creation be considered the visible signs of the spiritual sacrifice of thanksgiving among Christians.”




Critique of the concept of transsubstantiation


It is true that Luther also criticized the doctrine of transsubstantiation. In modern research, Luther’s criticism is however sometimes afforded a disproportionately large role. To Luther the concept of transsubstantiation was more unnecessry than false. To him it was not a heresy but a theologically and pastorally useless effort to explain Christ’s sacraments by means of Aristotelian philosophy.


Luther presented four counter-arguments. According to him the language of the Bible does not call for transsubstantiation. “The church lived quite well for 1,200 years without this term”. If believers worshipping the Eucharistic elements were to be protected against idolatry, transsubstantiation was a poor and useless means for doing this: simple believers understand correctly that they worship Christ present at the Eucharist (not the bread as such), but they will never understand the explanation of the sacraments by means of Aristotelian metaphysics. Besides, someone might digress to worship the accidents of bread and wine despite the doctrine of transsubstantiation . Finally, philosophy may well serve theology, but divine revelation cannot be submitted to the bondage of a currently fashionable philosopher.[79]


Since theology was to be independent of philosophy, Luther thought it was safer to explain Christ’s presence in the elements on the basis of the Chalcedonian Christology. “Just as each thing is in respect to Christ, so it is also in respect to the sacraments.”  In the consecrated wafer both the substance of bread and of Christ’s body are present together, as are Christ’s human and divine natures present together in the Person of Christ. “If philosophy does not comprehend this, faith will.”[80]


Despite Luther’s criticism of the concept of transsubstantitation he defended the sacramental realism and the doctrine of real presence against spiritual interpretations. He develop many arguments for real presence and many counter-arguments against to spiritualistic view.


Why does a Christian need the Eucharist?


When the Reformation was just starting, many people felt it was a liberation movement. The new doctrine and the new practices awakened spiritual enthusiasm among ordinary people. But in such a movement too, it is a short way from the ecstasy of freedom to indifference.


The preface to the Large Catechism vividly reveals that even Luther had become disappointed in regard to his expectations. In this preface, instead of condemning the Papists or those supporting the radical form of the Reformation, Luther strongly criticised ministers who had sided with the Reformation. He objected to their misinterpreting the freedom of the gospel and giving in to spiritual sloth. He felt that was why many parishioners had been led to an incorrect understanding. They worked out that the new interpretation of the gospel would make confession and the Eucharist voluntary or unnecessary for Christians.


In addition, the spiritualistic view of the sacrament held by the radical wing of the Reformation and even Luther’s own early emphasis on the significance of faith included elements which meant that it was but a short step to the depreciation of the sacraments. If faith alone will save, why does one need confession and the Eucharist any longer?


In the Large Catechism Luther presents three reasons why the Christian is to partake of the Eucharist. One is to attend the Eucharist because of Christ’s command, because of the promise included in it and because of one’s own need.


First the Christian is to partake of the Eucharist because Christ Himself instituted it and he told Christians to celebrate it often. According to Luther, salvation is received by faith, but faith also entails obeying God’s will and Christ’s command.[81] Secondly, the Christian needs to come to the Lord’s table because Christ attached to it the promise of the forgiveness of sins and of eternal life. The Eucharist offers people what God’s word promises. Of course, God is present in nature and even under each stone, but as Saviour and “God to me personally” he can only be found in the Mass, where the gospel is proclaimed and the Eucharist administered.[82]


According to Luther even people’s own anxieties lead them to the Communion table. They can fall into despair or become proud or indifferent. In both, people run the risk of losing saving faith. The Christian constantly falls, needing forgiveness.[83] Yet, by human anxiety Luther does not merely mean guilt from sins of commission. At issue is more broadly the sphere of life where people live. In addition to guilt, for example sickness, loneliness, fear of death, depression or experience of the futility of life feel like the powers of evil threatening faith and all human existence.[84]





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Wislöff, Carl Fr.

Abendmahl und Messe: Die Kritik Luthers am Messopfer. Arbeiten zur Geschichte und Theologie des Lutherthums. Band 12. Berlin : Lutherisches Verlagshaus, 1969.


[1] See for example Peters, Realpräsenz; Hermann Sasse, This is my body; Fredric Cleve, Luthers nattvardslära mot bakgrunden av Gabriel Biels uppfattning av nattvard och sakrament; Harmut Hilgenfeld, Mittelalterlich-traditionelle Elemente in Luthers Abendmahlschriften; Tom Hardt, Adorabilis & Venerabilis Eucharistia; Eckhard Lessing, Abendmahl; Wolfgang Simon, Die Messopfertheologie Martin Luthers.

[2] Jobst Schöne, Um Christi sakramentale Gegenwart. Der Saligerische Abendmahlstreit 1568-1569.

[3] See for example Vilmos Vajta, Die Theologie des Gottesdienstes bei Luther; Hans Bernhard Meyer SJ, Luther und die Messe; Reinhard Messner, Die Messreform Martin Luthers und die Eucharistie der Alten Kirche.

[4] On this debate later in this paper.

[5] See for example Peters, Realpräsenz, 10–22.

[6] WA 23, 193, 31–33.

[7] The original texts of the Confessio Augustana (CA), Der Grosse Katechismus (GK) and Der Kleine Katechismus (KK) see Bekenntnisschriften der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche (BSELK). Large Catechism in BSELK 545–733 (or WA 30 I, 125–238) and Small Catechism in BSELK 501–544 (or WA 30 I, 239–425).

[8] WA 4, 269, 25–26. Luther comments here Psalm 116:12 (How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?).

[9] WA 6, 364, 17–21: “Nu meynn ich, ßo wir die vorigen ding recht vorstandenn habenn, das die meß nit anders sey, den eyn testament unnd sacrament, darynnen sich gott vorspricht gegen uns unnd gibt gnad und barmhertzickeit, ßo wirt sichs nit fugen, das wir ein gutt werck odder vordienst solten drauß machen, den ein testament ist nit beneficium acceptum, sed datum, es nympt nit wolthat von uns, ßondern bringt uns wolthat.”

[10] BSELK, GK, Glaubensbekenntnis, 69.

[11] WA 26, 505, 38–506,12. ”Das sind die drey person und ein Gott, der sich uns allen selbs gantz und gar gegeben hat mit allem, das er ist und hat. Der Vater gibt sich uns mit hymel und erden sampt allen creaturen, das sie dienen und nuetze sein muessen. Aber solche gabe ist durch Adams fal verfinstert und unnuetze worden, Darumb hat darnach der son sich selbs auch uns gegeben, alle sein werck, leiden, weisheit und gerechtickeit geschenckt und uns dem Vater versunet, damit wir widder lebendig und gerecht, auch den Vater mit seinen gaben erkennen und haben moechten. Weil aber solche gnade niemand nuetze were, wo sie so heymlich verborgen bliebe, und zu uns nicht komen kuendte, So kompt der heilige geist und gibt sich auch uns gantz und gar, der leret uns solche wolthat Christi, uns erzeigt, erkennen, hilfft sie empfahen und behalten, nuetzlich brauchen und austeilen, mehren und foddern, Und thut dasselbige beide, ynnerlich und eusserlich: Ynnerlich durch den glauben und ander geistlich gaben. Eusserlich aber durchs Euangelion, durch die tauffe und sacrament des altars, durch welche er als durch drey mittel odder weise er zu uns kompt und das leiden Christi ynn uns ubet und zu nutz bringet der seligkeit.” English translation from Luther Works, Italics mine.

[12] ”Mit diesen worten kompt Christus nicht allein yn yhr hertz, sondern auch yn yhren leib, als sie es horet, fasset und glewbet. Da kan yhe niemand anders sagen, denn das die krafft durchs wort kompt. Wie man nu das nicht leugnen kan, das sie so durchs wort schwanger wird, und niemand weis, wie es zu gehet, so ist es hie auch. Denn so bald Christus spricht ‘Das ist mein leib’, so ist sein leib da durchs wort und krafft des heyligen geists. Wenn das wort nicht da ist, so ist es schlecht brod; aber so die wort da zu komen, bringen sie das mit, davon sie lauten.” WA 19, 491, 13–15

[13] Luther defends the doctrine of real presence especially in the following antispiritualistic writings: Wider die himmlischen Propheten von den Bildern und Sacrament, 1525 (WA 18, 62–214); Dass diese wort Christi ’Das ist mein Leib’ noch fest stehen: wider die Schwarmgeister (WA 23, 68–320); Von Abendmahl Christi, Bekenntnis, 1528 (WA 26, 261–509).

[14] BSELK, GK, Abendmahl, 31.

[15] On adoration of Christ in the Eucharist see more Vom Anbeten des Sakraments des heiligen leichnahms Christi (WA 11, 417–457).

[16] WA 10 III, 46, 9–14: “Do werd jr felen, lieben freünde, dann wann jr jo guote Christen für allen andern gesehen wolt sein, Das jr das sacrament mit den henden angreyfft und darzuo beydergestalt nemet, So seydt jr mir schlecht Christen: mit der weyße künde auch wol ein Saw ein Christen sein, sie hette jo so eynen grossen ryessel, das sie das sacrament eüsserlich nemen künde.” See also WA 10 II, 24, 14–16.

[17] WA Br 11, 258, 5–7: “Primum non est negligentia, Sed nequitia Eaque insignis istius Diaconi, Qui contemptor Dei et hominum abusus est hostias consecratas ad non consecratas pro eodem habere.”

[18] See WA Tr 6, 179, 16–17.

 [19]WA Br 11, 258, 7–10: “Ideo simpliciter est ejiciendus extra nostras Ecclesias. Vadat ad suos Zuinglianos. Non est opus, ut carcere teneatur homo alienus a nobis, cui nihil etiam iuranti credendum est.”

[20] See WA Br 10, 336–341 (Luther’s and Bugenhagen’s Letter to Simon Wolferinus in Eisleben, 4.7.1543) and WA Br 10, 348–349                             (Luther’s second Letter to Simon Wolferinus, 20.7.1543).

[21] WA Br 10, 340, 16–22: “Non nos a te, sed tu a nobis haud dubie habes, quod Sacramenta sint actiones, non stantes factiones. Sed quae est ista singularis tua temeritas, ut tam mala specie non abstineas, quam scire te oportuit esse scandalosam, nempe quod reliquum vini vel panis misces priori pani et vino? Quo exemplo id facis? Non vides certe, quam periculosas quaestiones movebis, si tuo sensu abundans contendes, cessante actione cessare Sacramentum?”

[22] WA Br 10, 340, 22–23.

[23] WA Br 10, 341, 37–41: ”Poteris enim ita, ut nos hic facimus, reliquum Sacramenti cum communicantibus ebibere et comedere, ut non sit necesse, quaestiones istas scandalosas et periculosas movere de cessatione actionis sacramentalis, in quibus tu suffocaberis, nisi resipiscas.”

[24] WA Br 10, 348, 13–33.

[25] Franz Pieper, Christian Dogmatics; Joseph Ratzinger, Theologische Prinzipienlehre, 273–276; Louis Boyier, Eucharist, 388.

[26] See Peura, “The Church as Spiritual Communion”, 93–131.

[27] StA 1, 273, 16–24: “Die Bedeutung odder das werck disses sacraments ist gemeynschafft aller heyligen, drumb nennet man es auch mit seynem teglichen namen Synaxis oder Communio, das ist gemeynschafft, vnd Comunicare auuf latein heyst dis gemeysachfft empfahen, wilchs wir auff deutsch sagen zum sacrament gehen, vnd kumpt daher, das Christus mit allen heyligen ist eyn geystlicher corper.” StA 1, 274, 15–18: “Dysse gemeynschafft steht darynne das alle geystlich gutter Christi vnnd seyner heyligen mit geteyllet vnd gemeyn werden dem, der dyss sacrament empfeht, widderrumb alle leyden vnd sund auch gemeyn werden vnd alsso liebe gegen liebe antzundet wirdt vnd voreynigt.”

[28] StA 1, 280, 5–11.

[29] StA 1, 278,34–279,12. English translation from Luther Works.

[30] Paul Althaus, “Luthers Abendmahlslehre,“ 5.

[31] StA 1, 279, 31–280, 4: “Vbir das alles hatt er disser zwo gestalt nit bloss nach ledig eyngesetzt, sondern seyn warhafftig naturlich fleysch yn dem bort, vnd seyn naturlich warhafftig blut yn dem weyn geben, dass er yhe ein volkomens sacrament odder zeychen gebe. Dann zu gleych als dass brot yn seynem warhafftigen naturlichen leychnam vnd der weyn yn seyn naturlich warhafftig blut vorwandelt wirt, alsso warhafftig werden auch wir in den geystlichen leyp, das ist yn die gemeynschafft Christi vnd aller heyligen getzogen und vorwandelt vnd durch diss sacrament yn alle tugende vnd gnad Christi vnd seyner heyligen gesetzt.” Translation from LW.

[32] WA 8, 513, 29–514, 3; BSELK, 418–419; WA 39 I, 134–173.

[33] See for example WA Br 7, 339, 18–32: “Dass aber ein Hausvater die Seinen das Wort Gottes lehret, ist recht und soll so sein; den Gott hat befohlen, dass wir unser Kinder und Haus sollen lehren und ziehen, und ist das Wort einem iglichen befohlen. Aber das Sacrament ist ein offenbarlich Bekenntnis und soll offenbarlichen berufene Diener haben, weil dabei stehet, als Christus sagt, man soll es tun zu seinem Gedächtnis, das ist, wie St. Paulus sagt, zu verkundigen oder predigen des Herrn Tod, bis er komme, und daselbst auch spricht, man solle zusammenkommen, und hart straft die, so sonderlich ein iglicher für sich selbs wollt des Hernn Abendmahl gebrauchen… Dann es ein gar anders umb ein ein offentlich Ampt in der Kirchen und umb ein Hausvater uber sein Gesind, darumb sie nicht zu mengen sind noch zu trennen.“ See also WA Tr 5, 6361; WA Br 7, 338, 7; WA Br 5, 528; 6, 143, 12; 7, 143, 12.

[34] “(239 §) Catholics and Lutherans in Sweden and Finland are agreed that God has instituted the priesthood for the administration of the Word and the sacraments of the Church. They are also agreed that only a person who is ordained and authorized by a validly consecrated bishop can celebrate the Eucharist in our churches.” Justification in the Life of the Church. A Report from the Roman Catholic – Lutheran Dialogue Group for Sweden and Finland. Available in www.

[35]  St Augustine, De trinitate 4, 14 (MPL 42, 819–1098):  “Ut quoniam quatuor considerantur in omni sacrificio: cui offeratur, a quo offeratur, quid offeratur, pro quibus offeratur.”

[36] See for example Simon, Die Messopferlehre Martin Luthers, 9–79; Senn, Christian Liturgy, 253–263; Iserloh, “Abendmahl,“ in TRE I, 90–103.

[37] STh III, q.73, a.4: “Dicendum quod, hoc sacramentum habet triplicem significationem. Unam quidem respectu praeteriti: inquentum scilicet est commemorativum Dominicae passionis, quae fuit verum sacrificium, ut supra dictum est. Et secundum hoc nominatur ‘sacrificium’.” See also STh q.79, a.7, r: “Dicendum quod hoc sacramentum non solum est sacramentum, sed etiam est sacrificium. Inquantum enim in hoc sacramento repraesentatur passio Christi . . . habet rationem sacrificii; inquantum vero in hoc sacramento traditur invisibilis gratia sub visibili specie, habet rationem sacramenti.” Also STh III, q.83, a.1, r: “Dicendum quod duplici ratione celebratio hujus sacramenti dicitur immolatio Christi. Primo . . . Celebratio autem hujus sacramenti est imago quaedam et repraesentativa passionis Christi quae est vera eius immolation . . . Alio modo quantum ad effectum passionis.”

[38] DS 856; DS 940; See also DS 1304 and 1743.

[39] WA 1, 330, 33–4: “Deus tuus est bonorum tuorum non indigus, sed bonorum suorum largus in te venit ad te.”

[40] WA 8, 441, 20–33: “Deinde, cum sacrificant, necesse est, cogitent deum placare. Velle autem deum placare est eum iratum et implacatum credere. Credere autem iratum est expectare iram potius quam charitatem, mala potius quam bona. At Eucharistiam salubriter accepturis necesse est credere deum summa charitate iandudum placatissimum ultro donare id, quo nihil habet charius, ita ut nihil eque pugnet adversus Eucharistiae fructum, atque haec sacrilega opinio papistarum et nocentissima conscientia deum esse iratum et hoc sacrificio placandum, qui, nisi summe esset placatus et amantissimus, tantas suoas opes nec exhibet, nec effunderet. Vides ergo, ut sacrifices isti, verius carnifices, suo sacrificio nos docent incurrere horrenda et pericula et omnia bona in mala, vivifica in mortifera, salutifera in damnabilia, certa in incerta, fidem in dubium, sacuratem in paverom, breviter, ipsam divinam charitatem in iram et amorem in odium, patrem in hostem, coelum in ingernum et summa in infirma verter, omnia miscere, confundere et perturbare.” See also WA 8, 444, 38–445, 3.

[41]  WA 8, 467, 7–10: “Ex quo ulterius sequitur coelum esse clausum et infernum paratum homini summa iniquitate dei, nempe non propter peccata hominis, neque propter non impleta mandata dei, sed propter tyrannicam et arbitratiam exactionem dei.”

[42] See Smalcald Articles, II, 10 in BSELK.

[43] WA 6, 502, 7–13.

[44] WA 6, 523, 25–26: “Missa quanto vicinior et similior primae omnium Missae, quam Christus in caena fecit, tanto Christianor.” See also StA 1, 290, 31–32.

[45] StA 1, 291, 12–18: “Wollen wir recht mess halten vnd vorstahn, so mussen wir alles faren lassen, was die augen vnd alle synn in dissen handel mugen zeygen vnd antragen, es sey kleyd, klang, gesang, tzierd, gepett, tragen, heben, legen odder was da geschen mag yn der mess biss das wir zuuor die wort Christi fassen vnd wol bedecken damit er die mess volnbrach vnd eyngesetzt vnd vns zuuolnbringen beuolhen hatt dan darynnen ligt die mess gantz mit all yhrem wessen, werck, nutz vnd frucht on wilche nichts von der mess empfangen wirt.“ WA 6, 513, 9–11: “Nihil enim in his omissum, quod ad integritatem, usum et fructum huis sacramenti pertinet, nihilque positum, quod superfluum et non necessarium sit nobis nosse.” See also WA 6, 512, 33–34.

[46] WA 12, 206, 17–18: “Nam hoc negare non possumus, Missas et communionem panis et vini ritum esse a Christo divinitus institutum.”

[47] See for example WA 12, 206, 23–207, 9; 37, 27–29.

[48] On Luther’s liturgical traditionalism see more for example Schultz, “Luthers Liturgische Reformen”, 247–275; Senn, “The Reform on the Mass”, 35–52.

[49] Junghaus, Wittenberg als Lutherstadt and “Luther on the Reform of Worship”.

[50] On medieval liturgical practices see Cabié, The Church at Prayer.

[51] StA 2, 273, 1–15; WA 6, 507, 6–13; WA 10 II, 11–41.

[52] WA 12, 212, 17–26.

[53] Original texts see for example Brightman (ed.), Liturgies Eastern and Western; Hänggi and Pahl (ed), Prex Eucharistica. English translations see Jasper and Cuming, Prayers of the Eucharist.

[54] See for example Wegmann, “Genealogie,” 212: ”Jede Rekonstruktion des römischen Kanons bleibt hypotetisch.” Also Rudolf Stählin, “Die Geschichte,” 36: ”Die Geschichte des römischen Ritus in den Jahrhunderten nach Hippolyt liegt völlig im Dunkel.” More on the development of the Mass see Jungmann, Missarum solemnia.

[55] WA 12, 212, 14–22

[56] Brilioth, Eucharistic Faith, 110–116 and Nattvarden, 183.

[57] Maxwell, An Outline of Christian Worship, 73–79.

[58] See for example Schmidt-Lauber, Die Eucharistie, 84–89; Jenson, Christian Dogmatics, 337–366; Pfatteicer, Commentary, 183; Parvio, “Ehtoollisliturgian ongelmia”, 118–134; Kotila, Liturgian lähteillä, 103–118; Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy, 336–337; Brand, Luther’s Liturgical Surgery”; Lathrop, “The Prayers of Jesus, 158–173; Senn, “Martin Luther’s Revision,” 101–118 ; Pfatteicher & Messerli, Manual on the Liturgy, 242.

[59] Spinks, Luther’s Liturgical Criteria,16–41.

[60] Olson, “Contemporary Trends,” 110–157; Krodel, “The Great Thanksgiving,” 12–26; Boehme, “Sing a New Song,” 96–116.

[62] See Wendebourg, “Den falschen Weg,” in ZThK 1997, 437–467 and her response, “Noch einmal ’Den falschen Weg’” in ZThK 2002, 400–440.

[63] BSELK, GK, Vater unser, 5–19 and 49–50.

[64] Here I agree with Jenson, Christian Dogmatics, 341–342 and his other writings.

[65] See Wislöff, Abendmahl und Messe.

[66] StA 1, 303, 11–13: “Auß welchen worten wir lernen, das . . . nach der meyß ist es leydlich, yha nuetzlich, das wir die meß ein opffer heyssen”.

[67] Juhani Forsberg, “Rukous tekona,” 29–41; Robert Jenson, Christian Dogmatics, 351–352.

[68] Messner, Die Messereform Martin Luthers, 172–185.

[69] See Simon, Die Messopfertheologie Martin Luthers, especially 262–389 and 699–712.

[70] StA 1, 299, 15–300, 5: “Derhalben die weyl nu fast alle welt auß der messe hatt ein opffer gemacht . . . ßo muessen wir hie weyßlich unterscheydt haben, was wir hie opffern oder nit opffern. Es ist on allen zweyffel das wort ‘opffern’ in der meß da her kummen und bißher blieben, das zu den zeytten der Apostolen, da noch ettlich ubung des alten testaments ganghafftig waren, die Christen zusammen trugen essen, gellt und nottdurfft, wilchs neben der meß wart außgeteyllet den duerfftigen, wie ich gesagt habe, als wir noch leßen Act. iiij. das die Christen vorkaufften allis was sie hetten und brachtens fur die fueß der Apostolen, die liessens dan außteyllen unnd geben auß dem gemeynengut eynem yglichen was eer bedurfft. Szo leret nu der heylig Apostel S. Pauel, das man allis essen und wes wir brauchen sollen mit beeten und gottis wort gebenedeyen, und got darumb dancken, da her kompt das Benedicite unnd Gracias ubir tisch. So war der prauch des alten testaments, wen man gott danckt ubir den enpffangenen, guetter, das man sie empor hub mit den henden gegen gott, wie do stett ym gesetz Mosi: drumb haben die Apostell auch alßo auffgehaben, gott gedanckt, und speyß und was die Christen zusammen trugen mit dem gottis wort gebenedeiet. Auch Christus selbs, wie S. Lucas schreybt, hub den kilch auff und danckt got, tranck und gab den andern, ehe er das sacrament und testament eynsetzet.”

[71] WA 6, 525, 1–3: “Panis enim et vinum antea offeruntur ad benedicendum, ut per verbum et orationem sanctificentur. Postquam autem benedictus et consecratus est, iam non offertur sed accipitur dono a Deo.”

[72] WA 8, 420, 8–15: “Paremus et alterum aeque fortem et pergamus testimonia adducere de sacerdotio novi testamenti et eius officio! Paulus Rom. XII ‘Obsecro vos per misericordiam Dei, ut exhibeatis corpora vestra hostiam sanctam, viventem, placentem Deo, rationabile obsequium vestrum’. Hic negare nemo potest, quin sacerdotale officium describat, quod est offere seu exhibere hostiam et rationabilem cultum, hoc est, ut non pecora irrationalia, sicut legis sacerdotes, sed se ipsos offerant. Quare hic locus sacerdotes facit. At communiter omnibus Christianis dicitur. Omnes enim suo corpora offere debent Deo in hostiam sanctam et rationale sacrificium.”

[73] WA 8, 420, 17–24: “Habemus ergo hoc loco Pauli auctoritate non solum, quod sit sacerdotium et qui sacerdotes novi testamenti, sed et quod sit eorum officium et sacrificium, nempe se ipsos mortificare et offere in hostiam sanctam, quo verbo simul universa legis sacrificia mystice interpretatur. Sic enim et Christus, summus sacerdos, prior sese sacrificavit, factus omnibus filiis suis sacerdotibus exemplum et sequantur vestigia eius.”

[74] StA 1, 302, 3–12: “Drumb sollen wir des worts ‘opffer’ wol warnhemen, das wir nit vormessen, etwas gott zu geben yn dem sacrament, ßo er uns darynnen alle dingk gibt. Wir sollen geystlich opffern, die weyll die leyplichen opffer abgangen und in kirchen, kloester, spital guetter vorwandelt seyn. Was sollen wir den opffern? Uns selb und allis was wir haben mit gleyssigem gepeet, wie wir sagen ‘dein will geschehe auff der erden als ym hymel’, Hie mit wir uns dargeben sollen gottlichem willen, das er von und auß uns mache, was er wil noch seynem gottlichen wolgefallen, dartzu yhm lob und danck opffern auß gantzem hertzen fur sein unaussprechliche suesse gnade und barmhertzickeit die er uns in dißem sacrament zugesagt und geben hat.” Italics mine.

[75] WA 6, 526, 13–18.

[76] StA 1, 303, 11–15: “Auß welchen worten wir lernen, das wir nit Christum, sondern Christus uns opffert, und nach der meyß ist es leydlich, yha nuetzlich, das wir die meß ein opffer heyssen, nit umb yret willen, sondern das wir uns mit Christo opffern.” See also Simon, Die Messopferlehre, 298–300.

[77] StA 1, 302,27 – 303,7: “Das ist wol war, solch gepeet, lob, danck und unser selbs opffer sollen wir nit durch uns selbs fur tragen fur gottis augen, sondern auff Christum legen und yhn lassen dasselb furtragen, wie S. Pauel leret Heb. xiij. Lasset uns altzeyt gott opffern ein opffer des lobes, wilchs ist die frucht der lippen, die yhn bekennen und preyssen, und das allis durch Christum, den darumb ist er auch ein priester, wie ps. 109. sagt ‘Du bist ein ewiger priester nach der weyße Melchisedech’, das er fur uns bittet ym hymel, unser gepett und opffer emphehet, und durch sich selb, als ein frumer pfaff, fur gott angenhem macht.”

[78] WA 23, 270, 9-11: “Denn her hats nicht alleine eingesetzt, sondern machts und helts auch selbs, vnd ist der koch, kelner, speise und trank selbs.”

[79] WA 6, 508–510.

[80] WA 6, 511, 34–39: “Sicut ergo in Christo res se habet, ita et in sacramento. Non enim ad corporalem inhabitationem divinitatis necesse est transsubstanciari humanam naturam, ut divinitas sub accidentibus humanae naturae teneatur. Sed integra utraque natura vere dicitur ‘Hic homo est deus, hic deus est homo’. Quod et si philosophia non capit, fides tamen capit. Et maior est verbi dei autoritas quam nostri ingenii capacitas.”

[81] WA 30, I, 228, 7–35.

[82] WA 30 I, 230, 24–38.

[83] WA 30 I, 231, 14–232, 29.

[84] Here I agree with Peters, Kommentar zu Luthers Katechismen, 176–177, who writes: “Er fügt die ’Furcht des Tods, Anfechtung des Fleischs und Teufels’ hinzu, in welchen es nicht um die Dimension der ’Schludfrage’, sondern um den Bereich der ’Machtfrage’ geht.”