Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 29
Lord's Day 29
Are then the bread and wine
changed into the real body and blood of Christ?
Just as the water of baptism
is not changed into the blood of Christ
and is not the washing away of sins itself
but is simply God's sign and pledge,
so also the bread in the Lord's supper
does not become the body of Christ itself,
although it is called Christ's body in keeping
with the nature and usage of sacraments
Why then does Christ call the bread His body and the cup His blood,
or the new covenant in His blood,
and why does Paul speak of a participation in the body and blood of Christ?
Christ speaks in this way for a good reason:
He wants to teach us by His supper
that as bread and wine sustain us
in this temporal life,
so His crucified body and shed blood
are true food and drink for our souls
to eternal life.
But, even more important,
He wants to assure us by this visible sign and pledge,
that through the working of the Holy Spirit
we share in His true body and blood
as surely as we receive with our mouth
these holy signs in remembrance of Him,
that all His suffering and obedience
are as certainly ours
as if we personally
had suffered and paid for our sins.
The fourth part of the Form for the Celebration of the Lord's Supper (Remembrance of Christ) describes the manner in which we should remember Christ in a very beautiful way. Read it! Article 35 of the BC states that we receive this sacrament “in the congregation of the people of God” (no communion for the sick!). The Lord did not give us a rule about the frequency of celebration. It is possible that the first congregation of Christians celebrated the supper every Sunday. Article 60 of the CO says:
The Lord's Supper shall be celebrated at least once every three months.
Our infrequent celebration of the Lord's supper is evidence of a low level of spiritual life.
- Article 35 of the BC says that we receive the Lord's supper ". . . as we together commemorate the death of Christ our Saviour with thanksgiving and we confess our faith and Christian religion."
For Christ said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” That is why young children are not admitted to the supper. They must first be instructed so that they may be able to discern the body of the Lord (1 Cor 11:29). Hence, the Catechism says in Answer 75 that Christ has commanded “me and all believers” to maintain this sacrament. It is instituted, says art. 35 of the BC, for ". . . those whom He has already regenerated and incorporated into His family, which is His Church."
The word “regenerated” here means: brought to faith and repentance.
- The signs are:
a. bread and wine, signifying the body and blood of the Lord;
b. broken and poured out, signifying that the body of the Lord was broken and his blood was shed;
c. distributed and apportioned, signifying that the sacrifice of Christ was made for us;
d. eaten and drunk, signifying that just as bread and wine become permanently united with our bodies when we eat and drink them, so also we are united with Christ by faith and are entitled to the benefit of the payment made by his suffering and to renewal by his Spirit; and that he nourishes us just as bread and wine nourish and refresh our bodies.
Hence, the Lord's supper speaks about what Christ did for (i.e., on behalf of) us: His sacrifice, completed on the cross; and about what he does in us by his Spirit: He nourishes and refreshes us, strengthens us, and renews us to eternal life.