Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 30
Lord's Day 30
What difference is there
between the Lord's supper and the papal mass?
The Lord's supper testifies to us,
that we have complete forgiveness of all our sins through the
one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself accomplished
on the cross once for all;
that through the Holy Spirit we are grafted into Christ,
who with His true body is now in heaven at the right hand of
the Father, and this is where He wants to be worshipped.
But the mass teaches,
that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins
through the suffering of Christ unless He is still offered for
them daily by the priests;
that Christ is bodily present in the form of bread and wine,
and there is to be worshipped.
Therefore the mass is basically nothing but a denial
of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ,
and an accursed idolatry.
Who are to come to the table of the Lord?
Those who are truly displeased with themselves
because of their sins and yet trust that these are forgiven
them and that their remaining weakness is covered by the
suffering and death of Christ,
and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith
and amend their life.
But hypocrites and those who do not repent
eat and drink judgment upon themselves.
Are those also to be admitted to the Lord's supper who by their
confession and life show that they are unbelieving and ungodly?
No, for then the covenant of God would be profaned and His
wrath kindled against the whole congregation.
according to the command of Christ and His apostles, the
Christian church is duty‑bound to exclude such persons by
the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
until they amend their lives.
The supper speaks about the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:27-28) and eternal life (Jn 6:54). It also speaks about the communion of saints (1 Cor 10:17), for just as we all partake of the same bread, so we all partake of the same Christ; just as one bread and one wine become part of us through the celebration of the Lord's supper, so also is there one life in all believers through Christ, and they are members of each other. The bread and wine are not themselves spiritual food; Christ is. But Christ gave us the bread and wine as a sacrament to “represent to us the spiritual and heavenly bread” (BC, art. 35). Thus, there is also no ex opere operato here (cf. Lord's Days 26-27, Note 5). We must accept in faith what the bread and wine signify and seal to us.
Also with the Lord's supper we come across the sacramental locution which identifies the sign with that which it portrays, so that the bread is called his body and the wine his blood (cf. Lord's Days 26-27, Note 6, and Q. 79).
- Article 35 of the BC states that what we eat and drink is the true body and true blood of Christ. Q&A 76 explains what this means. Eating is that action by which I make something a part of myself in such a way that no one can take it away. That which I ate has become part of me. In the same way the crucified body and shed blood of Christ become part of us, entirely ours. Their worth and significance are given to us, so that we have forgiveness of sins. The Catechism states that this being united with Christ is such that we are one body with him. We are not united with the Lord by eating with our mouths, but by our faith, in the spirit. For faith is “the hand and mouth of our soul” (BC, art. 35). The manner in which this occurs is beyond our understanding and comprehension (ibid.).
This communion in faith, this “eating of Christ” is something which we may and must do every day. But we receive the external and visible signs and seals of it at the Lord's supper. And the true and natural body and blood of Christ are pledged, and in that pledge also given, to us with the signs and seals, just as a cheque for $10 pledges and gives to us ten dollars. But he who fails to cash the cheque does not receive and obtain the $10, through his own foolishness. So also, he who does not use the pledge in faith and does not desire that which is pledged by it in faith, does not receive what is pledged and given. BC, art. 35 says: "Although the sacrament is joined together with that which is signified, the latter is not always received by all."
One should, therefore, distinguish between giving and receiving.
- Thus, in the Lord's supper, the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine. There is no change in their substance (transsubstantiation), as the Roman Catholics claim. They believe that although the attributes (taste, smell, etc.) of the bread and wine remain the same, their essence is changed into the essence of Christ's body. This is nonsensical. If the essence changes, then the attributes must change as well. When Christ says, “This Is my body,” it is clear that that has the same connotation as when I point to a dot on the map of Canada and say, “This is Ottawa.” The Lutherans taught co-existence of substance (consubstantiation). They believed that the essence of Christ's body was present in (under, with and in) the signs. Thus, in respect of the question: How is Christ Present in the Lord's Supper, there are these differences:
a. Roman Catholics: Bodily and materially (transsubstantiation). He is eaten with the mouth.
b. Lutherans: Also bodily (consubstantiation) and eaten with the mouth.
c. Zwingliites: Not present. The Lord's supper is solely a meal of remembrance.
d. Reformed: Really present, but only spiritually. He is eaten with the mouth of faith (see Ans. 78).
- The Roman Catholics call the sacrament of the Lord's supper the mass. In the early church it was the (wrong) custom for the baptised members to leave the church after the sermon, when the Lord's supper was about to be celebrated. The minister would then say: Ite, concio missa est (i.e., Go, the meeting has ended), or simply: missa est. This was misinterpreted and the name “mass” came to be used for the Lord's supper. The papal mass is something entirely different than the Lord's supper. The mass is not celebrated as a meal at table, but as a sacrifice at an altar. The papal mass is not a remembrance of the sacrifice at Golgotha, but a repetition of that offer. According to Rome, in the mass there is an unbloody repetition of Christ's sacrifice when the priest breaks the host (the body of Christ, according to them, by transsubstantiation). They believe that without this repetition “the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins” (A. 80). Further, they worship Christ in the mass in the appearance of the bread. Hence, when the Geuzen called the Roman Catholics “worshippers of the bread-god,” they were correct.1Further, Answer 80 does not put it too strongly when it says: “the mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ.” For in the mass man does not confess redemption through the Lord's one sacrifice (Heb 10:11, 14), but thinks that he can obtain his own redemption through the service of the priest. Moreover, the worship of what is in reality just matter is “an accursed idolatry.” How poor in all its pomp is the papal mass! There, man has to do it all himself. How rich in its simplicity is the Lord's supper. There is the preaching that our redemption is complete. A simple celebration of the Lord's supper in a barn is richer than a pontifical high mass in a cathedral.
- For whom is the Lord's supper instituted? That is a burdensome question for some people. They almost do not dare to come to the supper. It is hardly a question at all for others; they come to the holy table without much thought. Both are wrong, as pointed out in Answer 81. The Lord's supper is not only for those who are certain of their faith, but also for those who are weak in faith. It is for those “who are truly displeased with themselves because of their sins and yet trust that these are forgiven them” for Christ's sake, and who desire “to strengthen their faith and amend their life.”
But hypocrites, those who pretend, those who outwardly enter into the life of the church and speak its language, but who deny their hearts to the Lord and do not heartily turn to him, “eat and drink judgment upon themselves” when they come to the supper. This judgment is not The judgment. Repentance remains possible. But if we celebrate the Lord's supper in an unworthy manner, our consciences will be hardened and we shall more and more be caught up in sin. Also believers can eat and drink judgment and bring God's wrath upon themselves, if they eat and drink in an unworthy manner (i.e., unseemly manner, without exercise of faith). Some people, therefore, say: “Let us never celebrate the Lord's supper, for then we can not profane it.” But thereby it is also profaned, not through misuse, but through non-use. We “must examine ourselves and so eat of the bread” (1 Cor 11:29).
- This self-examination does not consist of answering the question: Should I go or not? The command is to go! But it is ensuring that we do not go to the Lord's table unworthily, i.e., in an unworthy manner, a manner not suited to the Lord's supper. This examination is not designed to make us worthy for the Lord's supper. We are always unworthy, but the Lord makes us worthy. The self-examination serves to make us enjoy the Lord's supper To Our Comfort (and not to our judgment). It consists of three parts:
a. the consideration of our sins and accursedness, so that we humble ourselves before God; also, so that we remove sin from us and make straight what is wrong between us and brothers and sisters;
b. the acceptance in faith of the promise of forgiveness of sins; and
c. the renewed desire to serve the Lord according to his Word and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
In this connection, read the beginning of the Form for the Celebration of the Lord's Supper (Self-examination).
- Apart from this personal discipline, church discipline is also necessary. We do not know the hypocrites; God does! And they can know themselves. But if those who are guilty of public sins wish to attend the Lord's supper, they must be prevented from doing so. If the seals of the covenant were to be administered to public sinners, the covenant would be dishonoured and God's wrath would be kindled over the whole congregation.
- There is no principial objection to the use of separate cups, but it is not to be recommended.
- The Roman Catholic practice of not giving the cup to the believers is contrary to Christ's command: “Drink from it, all of you.”
- Paedocummunion (admission of children to the table) is contrary to the injunction of 1 Cor 11:29. Postponing admission to the table until after age 20 betrays a wrong attitude to the Lord's supper (cf. Ex 30:14).
C. Cross References
- Several quotations from the broad explanation of the Lord's supper in BC, art. 35 have been given. It is impossible to reproduce the entire contents of this article. Read it carefully in its entirety!
D. Form for The Celebration of The Lord's Supper
1. The Doctrinal Part.
- the institution according to 1 Cor 11:23-29;
- the description of the self-examination in three parts;
- exercise of the disciplinary power in which abstention is commanded to those who “persist in such sins,” but in which also those of broken and contrite hearts are encouraged.
- consideration of the purpose of the institution of the Lord's supper:
i. celebration in remembrance of Christ's atoning death;
ii.assurance of faith; and
iii. strengthening of brotherly love.
2. The Liturgical Part.
It consists of:
- the prayer before the supper;
- the sursum corda (let us lift our hearts on high) and the celebration (communion);
- the call to thankfulness in accordance with Ps 103 and Rom 8; and
- the prayer of thanksgiving.
- What does the Catechism speak about in each of Q&A 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, and 82? Answer this question with the Catechism open in front of you.
- What names does the Bible use for the second sacrament and what do each of them mean?
- When did Christ institute the Lord's supper? What sacrament did it replace? Why?
- What kind of meal is it? How must we remember Christ at it? Where must it be celebrated? How often?
- What do we do when we celebrate the Lord's supper? Why are young children not admitted to it? What must they first do?
- What are the signs of the Lord's supper, what happens to them and what does that signify? Of what does the Lord's supper speak?
- Are bread and wine our spiritual food? If not, what is their purpose? What is sacramental locution? How can Holy Scripture call bread and wine the body and blood of the Lord?
- What does eating and drinking the body and blood of the Lord mean? Do we do that with the mouth? If not, how? Do we do this only at the Lord's supper? Are the body and blood of Christ given to everyone who receives the bread and wine? Are they received by everyone? What, therefore, do we have to distinguish?
- Is the essence of the bread changed into the body of Christ? Who teach that it is? What do the Lutherans teach?
- How is Christ present in the Lord's supper according to the Roman Catholics, the Lutherans, the Zwinglians and the Reformed confession?
- What is the origin of the word “mass”? What does the mass purport to be of Christ's sacrifice? How do we obtain forgiveness of sins according to the Roman Catholics? How is Christ worshipped in the mass? What is the mass in essence?
- For whom is the Lord's supper? What are hypocrites? What do they do when they come to the Lord's supper? Is repentance of that action possible? Can believers eat and drink judgment unto themselves? What, therefore, must we do?
- Why is self-examination necessary? Of what parts does it consist?
- To whom does church discipline extend? Why is it necessary?