After my Maudy Thursday sermon (which I re-used from last year, by the way. Not because I am lazy, but because I firmly believe that our congregation needs more instruction on the Eucharist) someone asked me about some of the definitions therin.
In particular, I used the example that we believe that Christ is present “in and through and around” the elements.
My friend noted that Lutherans believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are “truly and substantially present in, with and under the forms” of the consecrated bread and wine (the elements), so that communicants eat and drink the Holy Body and Blood of Christ Himself as well as the bread and wine. He is correct. This is commonly known as “consubstantiation.”
That is not what we believe, in the Mercersburg tradition, although one could make the argument that the difference is slight.
Instead, we would say that through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, the force of these elements makes Christ really present, although not ‘bodily.’ Thus the phrase was coined, it was a Mystical Presence. According to Calvin, “the Spirit truly unites things separated in space” This is an objective reality, determined by the nature of Christ through the invocation of the Holy Spirit. It is in no way a subjective reality.
So to say that Christ is present in the people, is not quite accurate. Nevin said that our sharing in his nature is not via our shared humanity, but rather exists only “in direct connection with his person.”
If the benefit of the Sacrament is only based upon our own experience, indeed even our own shared ‘affection’ for Christ; then the benefit is only whatever we put into it. Instead, “we partake His merits and benefits only so far as we partake of His substance.”
Thus those who commune do so with the person of Christ himself. Nevin would also correct my example using the word “in” because we receive Christ “by faith.” Still, it is a “spiritual real presence.” So, this idea is revealed where in the phrase from the old liturgy we read that in the sacrament we receive “Christ,” as in his person, “and all his benefits” as in the sacrament the grace signified is actually made present to the believer.
When looking for some images for the afore mentioned post, I came across an “de-motivational poster.” It showed a ciborum with hosts. In the black border the word Eucharist was printed. In smaller letters, under that title, (explitive deleted) it said: “More than a ——– cracker.”
The reason why we should think about such things is that it moves me to emphasize the importance of this sacrament. I also wonder, then, why some think it can be celebrated too often.