A MEMORIAL OF GOD’S BENEFITS
By this sacred rite the Lord wishes to keep in fresh remembrance that greatest benefit which he showed to mortal men, namely, that by having given his body and shed his blood he has pardoned all our sins, and redeemed us from eternal death and the power of the devil, and now feeds us with his flesh, and gives us his blood to drink, which, being received spiritually by true faith, nourish us to eternal life. And this so great a benefit is renewed as often as the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. For the Lord said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” This holy Supper also seals to us that the very body of Christ was truly given for us, and his blood shed for the remission of our sins, lest our faith should in any way waver.
THE SIGN AND THING SIGNIFIED
And this is visibly represented by this sacrament outwardly through the ministers, and, as it were, presented to out eyes to be seen, which is invisibly wrought by the Holy Spirit inwardly in the soul. Bread is outwardly offered by the minister, and the words of the Lord are heard: “Take, eat; this is my body”; and, “Take and divide among you. Drink of it, all of you; this is my blood.” Therefore the faithful receive what is given by the ministers of the Lord, and they eat the bread of the Lord and drink of the Lord’s cup. At the same time by the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit they also inwardly receive the flesh and blood of the Lord, and are thereby nourished unto life eternal. For the flesh and blood of Christ is the true food and drink unto life eternal; and Christ himself, since he was given for us and is our Savior, is the principal thing in the Supper, and we do not permit anything else to be substituted in his place.
But in order to understand better and more clearly how the flesh and blood of Christ are the food and drink of the faithful, and are received by the faithful unto eternal life, we would add these few things. There is more than one kind of eating. There is corporeal eating whereby food is taken into the mouth, is chewed with the teeth, and swallowed into the stomach. In times past the Capernaites thought that the flesh of the Lord should be eaten in this way, but they are refuted by him in John, ch. 6. For as the flesh of Christ cannot be eaten corporeally without infamy and savagery, so it is not food for the stomach. All men are forced to admit this. We therefore disapprove of that canon in the Pope’s decrees, Ego Berengarius (De Consecrat., Dist. 2). For neither did godly antiquity believe, nor do we believe, that the body of Christ is to be eaten corporeally and essentially with a bodily mouth.
SPIRITUAL EATING OF THE LORD
There is also a spiritual eating of Christ’s body; not such that we think that thereby the food itself is to be changed into spirit, but whereby the body and blood of the Lord, while remaining in their own essence and property, are spiritually communicated to us, certainly not in a corporeal but in a spiritual way, by the Holy Spirit, who applies and bestows upon us these things which have been prepared for us by the sacrifice of the Lord’s body and blood for us, namely, the remission of sins, deliverance, and eternal life; so that Christ lives in us and we live in him, and he causes us to receive him by true faith to this end that he may become for us such spiritual food and drink, that is, our life.
CHRIST AS OUR FOOD SUSTAINS US IN LIFE
For even as bodily food and drink not only refresh and strengthen our bodies, but also keeps them alive, so the flesh of Christ delivered for us, and his blood shed for us, not only refresh and strengthen our souls, but also preserve them alive, not in so far as they are corporeally eaten and drunken, but in so far as they are communicated unto us spiritually by the Spirit of God, as the Lord said: “The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:51), and “the flesh” (namely what is eaten bodily) “is of no avail; it is the spirit that gives life” (v. 63). And: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
CHRIST RECEIVED BY FAITH
And as we must by eating receive food into our bodies in order that it may work in us, and prove its efficacy in us — since it profits us nothing when it remains outside us — so it is necessary that we receive Christ by faith, that he may become ours, and he may live in us and we in him. For he says: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35); and also, “He who eats me will live because of me…he abides in me, I in him” (vs. 57, 56).
From all this it is clear that by spiritual food we do not mean some imaginary food I know not what but the very body of the Lord given to us, which nevertheless is received by the faithful not corporeally, but spiritually by faith. In this matter we follow the teaching of the Savior himself, Christ the Lord, according to John, ch. 6.