Feast of the Martyr Cyril the Deacon & Companions; Maundy Thursday (West)
THUS YOU now have the correct and Christian use for the reception of the Sacrament. Furthermore, we shall speak of the fruit, which follows when one uses the Sacrament aright. The Holy Sacrament produces two things: one is that it makes us brothers and fellow heirs of the Lord Christ, such that it makes us one with all other people upon earth and also all become one cake. These two benefits Paul emphasized in 1 Corinthians 10. We should all know this passage along with those words by which Christ instituted the Sacrament. Thus Saint Paul said, “we are all one bread and one drink, for we all participate in one bread and drink.” Likewise in the same passage he says, “Is it not so that the bread which we break is the distribution or participation of the body of Christ? And the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the participation of the blood of Christ?” These words should be in full use and well-known in Christendom, since so much depends upon them.
When we eat the bread, he says, we all have one food. You have that which I have, and it makes no difference that you are man or woman. In that which we all have in common in the Sacrament, we all receive what Christ has and is. When I believe that His body and blood are mine, I have the Lord Christ whole and complete. Thus He makes my heart joyous and confident since I leave nothing to my own piety, but depend upon the innocent blood and the pure body that I receive there.
Now what does Christ have and what does He bring about? His body and blood are without sin, full of grace—yes, the corporal dwelling of the divine majesty. In short, everything God has is Christ’s. The benefits here become altogether mine, and because of this I have a sign and seal, or assurance, that such great and unspeakable benefits are mine when I receive the flesh and blood of Christ. Therefore in the Sacrament no sin is removed because of my work, as the poor, stupid people have been deluded. Sin is removed there because I truly believe that the body and blood are given for me. Therefore I am certain and sure that Christ graciously gives me all good things that He has, and all His strength and power. Thus He gives His wisdom, truth and godliness, and takes away all my sins. His eternal life gobbles up death for me. Through His strength and power I defeat the devil. In the sacrament then a Christian man becomes an heir of eternal life and of all good things and an heir over all things, for which he can do nothing himself…
That is the first fruit of the Sacrament. The second is that we become one bread with one another, as Paul says, and one drink. These are extraordinary words, and they come in such a way that they are difficult to comprehend. That is entirely the reason that the Sacrament is turned into a work. How then does it happen that we all are one bread and partake of one another? It happens in this way: When I receive the Sacrament, I partake twice. Externally I partake of the Sacrament, inwardly however and spiritually I receive all the benefits of Christ as though I ate physical bread that strengthens the body inwardly. Again, when I receive the Sacrament Christ takes me and devours me and gobbles me up together with my sins. I partake of His righteousness such that His godliness swallows up my sin and misery so that I have nothing but righteousness.
It is the same also among us. We all become one cake and partake of each other. You know that when a person bakes bread all the grain is thoroughly ground. Thus each kernel becomes flour with all the others, and thus all are mixed together so that in one sack full of flour the grain is so mixed and thrown together that each becomes the flour of the other. No kernel retains its form. Each gives to the other its flour and each loses its own body. Thus many small kernels of grain become one loaf of bread, just as in the same way when one makes wine, each grape mixes its juice with that of the others and each forsakes its form. From all comes one drink. Thus it should also be with us. I give myself for the common good and serve you, and you make use of what is mine of which you are in need. Thus I am your food, just as you make use of bread when you are hungry that in turn your body may help and give strength to the one who is hungry. Therefore when I help and serve you in all need, I am your bread. On the other hand, if you are also a Christian, you in your turn act in the same way that you, with everything you have, serve me. For me all comes together for good and I partake of the same as food or drink. If it happens that I am a sinner, and you by God’s grace are pious, you strengthen me and you share your piety with me, pray for me, intercede before God for me, and cast all of it upon yourself. You swallow up my sin with your godliness just as Christ has done for us. Thus you partake of me, and I in turn partake of you.
There behold how unbelievably great a thing it is regarding that sacrament when one uses it in the right way, that a man must therein be delivered from death when he correctly perceives it for the great [thing that it is]. Reason cannot conceive of it. Is it not great that the high Majesty steps forth for me and gives Himself to me for mine own, thereupon that all saints step forth for me and stand, take upon themselves what is mine and have concern for me, serve and help me? Thus God places us in the fellowship of Christ and all His chosen; there we have a great consolation where we forsake ourselves. If I am a sinner, thus Christ stands there and says, “The sinner is mine whom I grab hold of with My holy fingers. Who will grumble about that?” Thus my sin falls away and I partake of His righteousness. Thus we Christians also do with each other, take upon ourselves that of another, so that one person bears the sin and failings of another and serves the other with his piety. This we don’t understand, and if we likewise often hear and understand it, we don’t believe it. And so we retreat ever more and experience no fruit or improvement.
These are the benefits of the Blessed Sacrament and that is the proper Christian use which consists briefly in this, that we conclude that a person understand the words which belong to the Sacrament, and then go to the Sacrament and confess that he is a Christian. Then one can take note and see whether those who receive the Sacrament demonstrate the fruit, which follows from it, and have demonstrated love. Where they will not act thus, one may exclude them from the community; so that it may again come into vogue that one know who the true Christians are.
Translated by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod; Excerpted pages 11-14
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