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As a result of our conversations on the eucharist, we Roman Catholic and Lutheran theologians wish to record, chiefly and first of all, our profound gratitude to God for the growing unity on this subject which we see in our day.
Our responsibility is to try to articulate and explain this increasing agreement to the people and leadership of our churches, so that they may test for themselves what we have discussed and draw whatever conclusions in thought and action they find appropriate. What we have to report is not so much original with us as simply one manifestation of a growing consensus among many Christian traditions on the Lord's supper.1
Ours, however, is a specifically Roman Catholic-Lutheran contribution. It attempts to go beyond the more general ecumenical discussion of the eucharist to an examination of the particular agreements and disagreements of our two traditions. While we have considered the biblical and patristic sources of eucharistic doctrine and practice in our preparatory conversations, this statement deals with problems that have become particularly acute for Lutherans and Roman Catholics as a result of the sixteenth-century controversies. It does not try to treat the sacrament of the altar comprehensively.
Our attention has focused on two issues: the eucharist as sacrifice, and the presence of Christ in the sacrament. These issues have been especially divisive in the past and are involved in most of our historical disagreements on eucharistic doctrine and practice. For this reason it seems to us important to enunciate our growing agreement on these two points, even though there are other aspects of the sacrament of the altar we have not yet discussed.
I. THE EUCHARIST AS SACRIFICE2 With reference to the eucharist as sacrifice, two affirmations have not been denied by either confession; four aspects of the problem have been major points of divergence.
II. THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE LORD'S SUPPER
Here, too, there are areas in which this group believes that Roman Catholics and Lutherans can make the same affirmations, and others in which our agreement is not yet complete.
Today, however, when Lutheran theologians read contemporary Catholic expositions,35 it becomes clear to them that the dogma of transubstantiation intends to affirm the fact of Christ's presence and of the change which takes place, and is not an attempt to explain how Christ becomes present. When the dogma is understood in this way, Lutherans find that they also must acknowledge that it is a legitimate way of attempting to express the mystery, even though they continue to believe that the conceptuality associated with "transubstantiation" is misleading and therefore prefer to avoid the term.
Our conversations have persuaded us of both the legitimacy and the limits of theological efforts to explore the mystery of Christ's presence in the sacrament. We are also persuaded that no single vocabulary or conceptual framework can be adequate, exclusive or final in this theological enterprise. We are convinced that current theological trends in both traditions give great promise for increasing convergence and deepened understanding of the eucharistic mystery.
There are still other questions that must be examined before we Catholic and Lutheran participants in these conversations would be prepared to assess our over-all agreements and disagreements on the doctrine of the sacrament of the altar. To mention two important omissions, we have not yet attempted to clarify our respective positions on the roles of the laity and the clergy, the "general" and "special" priesthood, in sacramental celebrations, nor have we discussed the pressing problem of the possibilities of intercommunion apart from full doctrinal and ecclesiastical fellowship.
On the two major issues which we have discussed at length, however, the progress has been immense. Despite all remaining differences in the ways we speak and think of the eucharistic sacrifice and our Lord's presence in his supper, we are no longer able to regard ourselves as divided in the one holy catholic and apostolic faith on these two points. We therefore prayerfully ask our fellow Lutherans and Catholics to examine their consciences and root out many ways of thinking, speaking and acting, both individually and as churches, which have obscured their unity in Christ on these as on many other matters.
October 1, 1967
1Various terms are current in the different Christian traditions for this sacrament: e.g., eucharist, holy communion, sacrament of the altar, mass. We shall use them interchangeably. Further, in order to mark the way our statement shares in the growing ecumenical consensus, we shall, on occasion, use language from the documents of the ecumenical movement to express our own convictions.
2Scripture and the history of theology contain many ways of describing Christ's sacrifice and therefore also the sacrificial character of the memorial of that sacrifice which is the eucharist. The most general meaning of "sacrifice" is broader than any current in contemporary usage-or in that of the sixteenth century. Thus, according to the Second World Conference on Faith and Order (Edinburgh, 1937), "If sacrifice is understood as it was by our Lord and His followers and in the early Church, it includes, not His death only, but the obedience of His earthly ministry, and His risen and ascended life, in which He still does His Father's will and ever liveth to make intercession for us" (L. Vischer, ed., A Documentary History of the Faith and Order Movement, 1927-1963 [St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1963] p. 57). In what follows, however, no particular theory of "sacrifice" or of related terms such as "propitiation" is presupposed.
3Consultation on Church Union: Principles (Cincinnati: Foreward Movement Press, 1967) p. 50. See also the Montreal Faith and Order affirmation: the Lord's supper is "a sacrament of the presence of the crucified and glorified Christ until he come, and a means whereby the sacrifice of the cross, which we proclaim, is operative within the church" (P.C. Rodger, ed., The Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order: Montreal, 1963, p. 73).
4Rodger, op. cit., pp. 73-74. See also the Apology of the Augsburg Confession XXIV, 30-88, esp. 33, 35, 74-75, 87. References to the Lutheran Confessions are based on Die Bekenntnisschriften der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche (5th ed.; Gottingen, 1964.)
5Rodger, op. cit., p. 73.
6Luther says: "not that we offer Christ as a sacrifice, but that Christ offers us"; but he also holds that this involves a sense in which "we offer Christ": "Through it (faith), in connection with the sacrament, we offer ourselves, our need, our prayer, praise and thanksgiving in Christ, and thereby we offer Christ.. . . I also offer Christ in that I desire and believe that he accepts me and my prayer and praise and presents it to God in his own person" (A Treatise on the New Testament, in Luther's Works 35 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1961] 98-101). This agrees with the testimony of the Second Vatican Council, which, quoting St. Augustine, says that the "aim" of the sacrifice offered in the eucharist is that "the entire commonwealth of the redeemed, that is, the community and the society of the saints, be offered as a universal sacrifice to God through the High Priest who in His Passion offered His very Self for us that we might be the body of so exalted a Head" (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, no. 2; tr. W.M. Abbott and J. Gallagher, 'eds., The Documents of Vatican II [New York: Guild Press, 1966] pp. 535-36; quotation from Augustine's City of God 10, 6). The continuation of this quotation is paraphrased in the 1947 encyclical i, no. 125: "in the sacrament of the altar which she [the church] offers, she herself is also offered." The contemporary Catholic theologian Karl Rahner explains this point by saying that the eucharistic offering of Christ inseparably involves "the believing, inner 'yes' of men to the movement of loving obedience of Christ to the Father." He goes on to speak directly to the fears which Protestants have expressed regarding the notion of the "sacrifice of the mass": "The sacrifice of the mass creates no new gracious and saving will in God vis-a-vis the world which did not already exist through the cross (and only through the cross!)." "We can speak of 'moving' God to forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy and assistance through the sacrifice of the mass only in the sense that the gracious will a God, founded exclusively on the reconciliation of the cross, becomes visible in the sacrifice of the mass, comes to man ... and takes hold of him"-producing, Rahner goes on to suggest, manifold effects in the worshipers and, through their actions and prayers, in the world ("Die vielen Messen and das eine Opfer," Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 71  267 and 288).
7A question can still be raised whether the word "propitiatory," given its usual connotations, correctly describes the Father's action in Christ on Calvary. Cf. C.F.D. Moule, The Sacrifice of Christ (Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1964), pp. vi-viii, 33 f., and the literature cited on p. 46.
8Denzinger-Schönmetzer 1753 (950).
10A. Vonier, Collected Works 2 (London, 1952) 343. It should be noted that Vonier does not regard such a statement as irreconcilable with his own insistence on the uniqueness and sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice.
11Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, nos. 26 and 27.
12Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 7; St. Augustine, Treatise on the Gospel of John 6, 1, 7 (PL 35, 1428).
13Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 7; Instruction on Eucharistic Worship (May 25, 1967) no. 9; FC (= Formula of Concord) SD (= Solid Declaration) VIII, 76-84.
141 Cor. 11:27. Cf. Denzinger-Schönmetzer (hereafter DS) 1636, 1640 f., 1651, 1653. Writing of the eucharistic presence, E. Schlink states: "The divine nature of Christ is not without the human nature and the human nature is not without the divine nature" (Theology of the Lutheran Confessions [Philadelphia, 1961] p. 158.) See also FC SD VII, 60; VIII, 76-84.
15Cf. DS 1636; Ap ( = Apology of the Augsburg Confession) X, 1, 4; FC Ep (= Epitome) VII, 6, 34; SD VII, 88, 126.
16DS 1636. Cf. FC SD VII, 38.
17Cf. DS 1636; FC Ep VII, 16 f.; SD VII, 97-103, 106.
18DS 1636. Cf. FC Ep VII, 15; SD VII, 63.
19FC Ep VII, 14 f. In the context of the Formula of Concord, it is clear that "spiritual" here is not opposed to "real." Cf. SD VII, 94-106, 118.
20Cf AC (= Augsburg Confession) X; Ap X, 1 ff.; FC Ep VII, 6 f., 26 ff., 34; SD VII, 2-11, 38, 48 f.; DS 1636, 1651.
21Cf. DS 1651; FD SD VII, 7, 49, 116; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, nos. 33, 59; Instruction on Eucharistic Worship, no. 6.
22Consultation on Church Union: Principles, p. 49.
23Cf. LC ( = Large Catechism) V, 9f. , 14; FC Ep VII, 9, 35; SD VII, 73-82, 89, 121; DS 1636 f.;1640. See also DS 1612; FC Ep VII, 8; SD VII, 16, 32, 89; LC IV, 52, and V, 4 ff., 15-18. Catholics see in these affirmations of the Lutheran Confessions the essential content of the Catholic doctrine of the ex opere operato working of the sacraments. In some of the pre-Tridentine Confessions, Lutherans rejected a concept of opus operatum which Catholics do not recognize as their own. Cf. DS 1606 ff., 1612.
24Cf. AC X, 1; FC SD VII, 14; Ep VII, 6: "We believe ... that in the holy supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present and are truly distributed and received (wahrhaftig ausgeteilet und empfangen werde). . ." In his Sermon on the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ (1526; WA [ = Weimar edition] 19, 491, 13), Luther declared: "As soon as Christ says: 'This is my body,' his body is present through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit" (tr. F. Ahrens, American edition 36, 341). Cf. WA 30/1, 53, 122.-Trent (DS 1654) refers to Christ's presence before reception as "ante (usum)." For Trent usus means the actual reception by the communicant: "in usu, dum sumitur" (ibid.). Lutherans speak of the whole liturgical action as usus: the consecration, distribution and reception (sumptio) of the sacrament (FC SD VII, 85 f.). If, therefore, Lutherans do not speak of Christ being present before or apart from "use," this is not to be understood as contradicting Trent; for the Lutheran Confessions agree that Jesus is present (adesse) in the sacrament before he is received (sumi), that is, ante sumptionem. It is "the body and blood of Christ" which "are distributed to us to eat and to drink.. .." (SD VII, 82).
25DS 1643: "(sacramentum) quod fuerit a Christo Domino, ut sumatur, institutum."
26Cf. Phil 2:10.
27Cf. DS 1643, 1656; FC SD VII, 126: one must not "deny that Christ himself, true God and man, who is truly and essentially present in the Supper when it is rightly used, should be adored in spirit and in truth in all places but especially where his community is assembled" (ed. T.G. Tappert). See also Luther, WA 11, 447 (Amer. ed. 36, 294); St. Augustine, On Psalm 98, 9 (PL 37, 1264).
28Instruction on Eucharistic Worship, no. 49.
29Cf. ibid. As Dom Lambert Beauduin has expressed it, the eucharist was not reserved in order to be adored; rather, because it was reserved, it was adored (cf. Melanges liturgiques . . . de Dom L. Beauduin [Louvain, 1954] p. 265). It should be noted, however, that adoration of the reserved sacrament has been very much a part of Catholic life and a meaningful form of devotion to Catholics for many centuries.
30Instruction on Eucharistic Worship, no. 58; cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 13.
31AC XXII, 1.
32Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. no. 55. It should be noted that some scholars hold that communion under both kinds has not always been the practice within the church even in ancient times. For example, J. Jeremias (The Eucharistic Words of Jesus [New York, 1964] p. 115) suggests that "the breaking of the bread" in the New Testament refers to communion under one species. Other scholars disagree.
33Cf. Instruction on Eucharistic Worship, no. 32.
34Lutherans traditionally speak of the change that takes place in the elements as involving a sacramental union with the body and blood of Christ analogous to the hypostatic union of the human and divine natures in Christ; cf. FC SD VII, 36 f Coupled with this affirmation is the statement that the bread and wine are essentially untransformed (unvorwandelten); cf. SD VII, 35 In Ep VII, 22 the Roman Catholic affirmation of transubstantiation is understood to involve an annihilation (zunicht werden) of the bread and wine. It should be noted, however, that Trent's understanding of transubstantiation has nothing to do with the idea of annihilation of the elements. Catholic theologians emphasize today that the substantial change of bread and wine is a sacramental change which involves no change in "the chemical, physical or botanical reality of bread and wine" (E. Schillebeeckx, "Transubstantiation, Transfinalization, Transignification," Worship 40  337). Further, on the basis of Ap X, 2, which cites with approval the Greek tradition that the bread is truly changed into the body of Christ ("mutato pane"; "panem…vere mutari"), there is a certain sense in which "one can stand on Lutheran ground and talk about a transformation of the elements (Verwandlung der Elemente). Cf. Fr. Brunstaed, Theologie der lutherischen Bekenntnisschrifien (Guetersloh, 1951) p. 156.
35Cf. K. Rahner, "The Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper," in Theological Investigations 4 (Baltimore, 1966) 287-311; E. Schillebeeckx, "Christus tegenwoordigheid in de Eucharistie," Tijdschrift voor Theologie 5 (1965) 136-72.
[Louvain, 1954] p. 265). It should be noted, however, that adoration of the reserved sacrament has been very much a part of Catholic life and a meaningful form of devotion to Catholics for many centuries.
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