Luther’s Eucharist

Why does Luther not mention sacraments in his Large Catechism section on the 3rd Commandment (keeping the Sabbath)?  If David Yeago is right and Luther’s concerns were primarily “sacramental,” why does this section focus exclusively on the learning of the Word and even say that mature Christians don’t really even need holy days?

If asked, I’ve no doubt Luther would say that every Christian ought to be taking the Eucharist regularly.  Importantly, though, Luther does not speak of the Eucharistic feast as the key and objective benefit that the Christian receives from the divine service.  Rather, the Eucharist functions centrally in our lives of faith and our sanctification by the Divine Word.  What is most vital about the Supper is that Christ’s Word is spoken and miraculously fulfilled in our midst and in our bodies.  This is for the building of our faith and our cleansing through the holy Word of God.  Luther’s beef with Zwinglian memorialism is not that it is too “Gnostic,” or any other metaphysical reason at all.  For Luther, Zwingli’s view simply makes a liar of Jesus.  The elements as symbols might be a nice illustration for us–one good illustration among many–but we lose the direct and physical promise, given to us and physically coming true for us.  The Eucharist is Jesus’ tangible truth-telling in contact with our faith, giving it strength.  It is not another parable, it is where Jesus’ teaching intersects his work.


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