Home > Luther, The Sacrament of the Altar > Christ Offers Us As a Sacrifice in His Supper. Luther.

Christ Offers Us As a Sacrifice in His Supper. Luther.


Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We should, therefore, give careful heed to this word “sacrifice,” to that we do not presume to give God something in the sacrament, when it is he who in it gives us all things.  We should bring spiritual sacrifices, since the external sacrifices have ceased…What sacrifices, then, are we to offer?  Ourselves, and all that we have, with constant prayer, as we say, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” [Matt. 6:10].  With this we are to yield ourselves to the will of God, that he may make of us what he will, according to his own pleasure.  In addition we are to offer him praise and thanksgiving with our whole heart, for his unspeakable, sweet grace and mercy, which he has promised and given us in this sacrament.  And although such a sacrifice occurs apart from the mass, and should so occur—for it does not necessarily and essentially belong to the mass, as has been said—yet it is more precious, more appropriate, more mighty, and also more acceptable when it takes place with the multitude and in the assembly, where men encourage, move, and inflame one another to press close to God and thereby attain without any doubt what they desire.

 

For Christ has so promised: where two are gathered in his name, there he is in the midst of them; and where two agree on earth about anything they ask, everything that they ask shall be done [Matt 18:20, 19].  How much more shall they obtain what they ask when a whole city comes together to praise God and to pray with one accord!  We would not need many indulgence letters if we proceeded properly in this matter.  Souls would also be easily redeemed from purgatory* and innumerable blessings would follow…

 

To be sure this sacrifice of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, and of ourselves as well, we are not to present before God in our own person.  But we are to lay it upon Christ and let him present it for us, as St. Paul teaches in Hebrews 13[:15], “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess him and praise him”; and all this “through Christ.”  For this is why he is also a priest—as Psalm 110 [:4] says, “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”—because he intercedes for us in heaven.  He receives our prayer and sacrifice, and through himself, as a godly priest, makes them pleasing to God…

 

From these words we learn that we do not offer Christ as a sacrifice, but that Christ offers us.  And in this way it is permissible, yes, profitable, to call the mass a sacrifice; not on its own account, but because we offer ourselves as a sacrifice along with Christ.  That is, we lay ourselves on Christ by a firm faith in his testament and do not otherwise appear before God with our prayer, praise, and sacrifice except through Christ and his mediation.  Nor do we doubt that Christ is our priest or minister in heaven before God.  Such faith, truly, brings it to pass that Christ takes up our cause, presents us and our prayer and praise, and also offers himself for us in heaven.  If the mass were so understood and for this reason called a sacrifice, it would be well.  Not that we offer the sacrament, but that by our praise, prayer, and sacrifice we move him and give him occasion to offer himself for us in heaven and ourselves with him.

 

Martin Luther, “A Treatise on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass.”  Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 35, pp.98-99.

 

*  “A Treatise on the New Testament” was published in 1520. In 1518 (according to the footnote in the American Edition”) Luther affirmed that he believed in the existence of purgatory. But already in the same document he insisted that “every matter concerning the souls in purgatory is most obscure.” By 1521 he would say “Those who do not believe in purgatory are not to be called heretics.” The first time he wrote a treatise directly on the doctrine of purgatory was in 1530 where he attacked the traditional arguments in support of the doctrine.

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