(From McClintock and Strong’s “ Cyclopedia”)
the common English name of an ordinance instituted by our Savior in commemoration of his death and sufferings, being one of the two sacraments universally observed by the Christian Church.
I. Name. — It is called “the Lord’s Supper” (κυριακὸν δεῖπνον) in 1Co 11:20 because it was instituted at supper-time. Synonymous with this is the phrase “the Lord’s table” (τράπεζα Κυρίου, 1Co 10:21), where we also find the name “the cup of the Lord” (ποτήριον Κυρίουv). Many new terms for it were early introduced in the Church, among which the principal are Communion (κοινωνία, a festival in common), a term borrowed from 1Co 10:16, and Eucharist (Εὐχαριστία and εὐλογία), “a giving of thanks,” because of of the hymns and psalms which accompanied it. Among the many other Greek and Latin names applied to the Lord’s Supper, but for which we have no exact equivalent, we mention Σύναξις, “a collection” (for celebrating the Lord’s Supper), Λειτουργία (Liturgy, q.v.), Μυστήριον (Sacrament, q.v.), AMissa (Mass, q.v.), etc.
II. Biblical Notices. —
1. Original Accounts. — The institution of this sacrament is recorded by Mat 26:26-29, Mar 14:22-25, Luk 22:19 sq., and by the apostle Paul (1Co 11:24-26), whose words differ very little from those of his companion, Luke; and the only difference between Matthew and Mark is, that the latter omits the words “for the remission of sins.” There is so general an agreement among them all that it will only be necessary to recite the words of one of them: “Now, when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve” to eat the Passover which had been prepared by his direction, “and as they were eating, Jesus tool bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it, for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mat 26:20; Mat 26:26-28). Its institution “in remembrance” of Christ is recorded only by Luke and Paul. John does not mention the institution at all, but the discourse of Jesus in chapter Joh 6:51-59 is referred by many interpreters to the Lord’s Supper. Paul warns the Corinthians (1Co 10:16-21) that they cannot partake of the Lord’s table and at the same time eat of the pagan sacrifices, because (1Co 10:19) “the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to devils, and not to God;” and in another part of his first epistle (1Co 11:27-29), that “whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; but let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup; for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” Other passages of the New Testament are referred by many exegetical writers to the Lord’s Supper, but they establish no new point concerning the Biblical doctrine. They will be examined, however, in detail in this connection, leaving the ecclesiastical relations of the subject for the title COMMUNION.
2. Paschal Analogies. — This is an important inquiry in the discussion of the history of that night when Jesus and his disciples met together to eat the Passover (Mat 26:19; Mar 14:16; Luk 22:13). The manner in which the paschal feast was kept by the Jews of that period differed in many details from that originally prescribed by the rules of Exodus 12. The multitudes that came up to Jerusalem met, as they could find accommodation, family by family, or in groups of friends, with one of their number as the celebrant, or “proclaimer” of the feast. The ceremonies of the feast took place in the following order (Lightfoot, Temple Service, 13; Meyer, Comm. in Mat 26:26).
(1.) The members of the company that were joined for this purpose met in the evening and reclined on couches, this position being then as much a matter of rule as standing had been originally (comp. Mat 26:20, ἀνέκειτο ; Luk 22:14; and Joh 13:23; Joh 13:25). The head of the household, or celebrant, began by a form of blessing “for the day and for the wine,” pronounced over a cup, of which he and the others then drank. The wine was, according to rabbinic traditions, to be mixed with water; not for any mysterious reason, but because that was regarded as the best way of using the best wine (comp. 2Ma 15:39).
(2.) All who were present then washed their hands; this also having a special benediction.
(3.) The table was then set out with the paschal lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and the dish known as Charoseth (חֲרוֹסֶת), a sauce made of dates, figs, raisins, and vinegar, and designed to commemorate the mortar of their bondage in Egypt (Buxtorf, Lex. Chald. col. 831).
(4.) The celebrant first, and then the others, dipped a portion of the bitter herbs into the Charoseth and ate them.
(5.) The dishes were then removed, and a cup of wine again brought. Then followed an interval which was allowed theoretically for the questions that might be asked by children or proselytes, who were astonished at such a strange beginning of a feast, and the cup was passed round and drunk at the close of it.
(6.) The dishes being brought on again, the celebrant repeated the commemorative words which opened what was strictly the paschal supper, and pronounced a solemn thanksgiving, followed by Psalms 113, 114.
(7.) Then came a second washing of the hands, with a short form of blessing as before, and the celebrant broke one of the two loaves or cakes of unleavened bread, and gave thanks over it. All then took portions of the bread and dipped them, together with the bitter herbs, into the Charoseth, and so ate them.
(8.) After this they ate the flesh of the paschal lamb, with bread, etc., as they liked; and, after another blessing, a third cup, known especially as the “cup of blessing” was handed round.
(9.) This was succeeded by a fourth cup, and the recital of Psalms 115-118, followed by a prayer, and this was accordingly known as the cup of the Hallel, or of the Song. (10.) There might be, in conclusion, a fifth cup, provided that the “great Hallel” (possibly Psalms 120-137) was sung over it.
Comparing the ritual thus gathered from rabbinic writers with the N.T., and assuming
(a) that it represents substantially the common practice of our Lord’s time, and
(b) that the meal of which he and his disciples partook was really the Passover itself, conducted according to the same rules, we are able to point, though not with absolute certainty, to the points of departure which the old practice presented for the institution of the new. To (1.) or (3.), or even to (8.), we may refer the first words and the first distribution of the cup (Luk 22:17-18); to (2.) or (7.), the dipping of the sop (ψωμίον) of Joh 13:26; to (7.), or to an interval during or after (8.), the distribution of the bread (Mat 26:26; Mar 14:22; Luk 22:19; 1Co 11:23-24); to (9.) or (10.) (“after supper,” Luk 22:20), the thanksgiving, and distribution of the cup, and the hymn with which the whole was ended. It will be noticed that, according to this order of succession, the question whether Judas partook of what, in the language of a later age, would be called the consecrated elements, is most probably to be answered in the negative.
The narratives of the Gospels show how strongly the disciples were impressed with the words which had given a new meaning to the old familiar acts. They leave unnoticed all the ceremonies of the Passover, except those which had thus been transferred to the Christian Church and perpetuated in it. Old things were passing away, and all things becoming new. They had looked on the bread and the wine as memorials of the deliverance from Egypt. They were now told to partake of them “in remembrance” of their Master and Lord. The festival had been annual. No rule was given as to the time and frequency of the new feast that thus supervened on the old, but the command, “Do this as oft as ye drink it” (1Co 11:25), suggested the more continual recurrence of that which was to be their memorial of one whom they would wish never to forget.
The words, “This is my body,” gave to the unleavened bread a new character. They had been prepared for language that would otherwise have been so startling by the teaching of John (Joh 6:32-58), and they were thus taught to see in the bread that was broken the witness of the closest possible union and incorporation with their Lord. The cup, which was “the new testament’ (διαθήκη) “in his blood,” would remind them, in like manner, of the wonderful prophecy in which that new covenant had been foretold (Jer 31:31-34), of which the crowning glory was in the promise, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” His blood shed, as he told them, “for them and for many,” for that remission of sins which he had been proclaiming throughout his whole ministry, was to be to the new covenant what the blood of sprinkling had been to that of Moses (Exo 24:8). It is possible that there may have been yet another thought connected with these symbolic acts. The funeral customs of the Jews involved, at or after the burial, the administration to the mourners of bread (comp. Jer 16:7, “neither shall they break bread for them in mourning,” in marginal reading of A.V.; Ewald and Hitzig, ad loc.; Eze 24:17; Hos 9:4; Tob 4:17), and of wine, known, when thus given, as “the cup of consolation.” May not the bread and the wine of the Last Supper have had something of that character, preparing the minds of Christ’s disciples for his departure by treating it as already accomplished? They were to think of his body as already anointed for the burial (Mat 26:12; Mar 14:8; Joh 12:7), of his body as already given up to death, of his blood as already shed. The passover meal was also, little as they might dream of it, a funeral feast. The bread and the wine were to be pledges of consolation for their sorrow, analogous to the verbal promises of Joh 14:1; Joh 14:27; Joh 16:20. The word διαθήκη might even have the twofold meaning which is connected with it in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
May we not conjecture, without leaving the region of history for that of controversy, that the thoughts, desires, emotions of that hour of divine sorrow and communion would be such as to lead the disciples to crave earnestly to renew them? Would it not be natural that they should seek that renewal in the way which their Master had pointed out to them? From this time, accordingly, the words “to break bread” appear to have had for the disciples a new significance. It may not have assumed, indeed, as yet, the character of a distinct liturgical act; but when they met to break bread, it was with new thoughts and hopes, and with the memories of that evening fresh on them. It would be natural that the Twelve should transmit the command to others who had not been present, and seek to lead them to the same obedience and the same blessings. The narrative of the two disciples to whom their Lord made himself known “in breaking of bread” at Emmaus (Luk 24:30-35) would strengthen the belief that this was the way to an abiding fellowship with him.
3. Later N.-T. Indications. — In the account given by the writer of the Acts of the life of the first disciples at Jerusalem, a prominent place is given to this act, and to the phrase which indicated it. Writing, we must remember, with the definite associations that had gathered round the words during the thirty years that followed the events he records, he describes the baptized members of the Church as continuing steadfast in or to the teaching of the apostles, in fellowship with them and with each other, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Act 2:42). A few verses further on, their daily life is described as ranging itself under two heads:
(1.) that of public devotion, which still belonged to them as Jews (“continuing daily with one accord in the Temple”);
(2.) that of their distinctive acts of fellowship: “breaking bread from house house (or ‘privately,’ Meyer), they did eat their meat in gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.” Taken in connection with the account given in the preceding verses of the love which made them live as having all things common, we can scarcely doubt that this implies that the chief actual meal of each day was one in which they met as brothers, and which was either preceded or followed by the more solemn commemorative acts of the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup. It will be convenient to anticipate the language and the thoughts of a somewhat later date, and to say that apparently they thus united every day the Agapi, or feast of love, with the celebration of the Eucharist. So far as the former was concerned, they were reproducing in the streets of Jerusalem the simple and brotherly life which the Essenes were leading in their seclusion on the shores of the Dead Sea. It would be natural that, in a society consisting of many thousand members, there should be many places of meeting. These might be rooms hired for the purpose, or freely given by those members of the Church who had them to dispose of. The congregation assembling in each place would come to be known as “the Church” in this or that man’s house (Rom 16:5; Rom 16:23; 1Co 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 1:2). When they met, the place of honor would naturally be taken by one of the apostles, or some elder representing him. It would belong to him to pronounce the blessing (εὐλογία) and thanksgiving (εὐχαριστία), with which the meals of devout Jews always began and ended. The materials for the meal would be provided out of the common funds of the Church or the liberality of individual members.
The bread (unless the converted Jews were to think of themselves as keeping a perpetual passover) would be such as they habitually used. The wine (probably the common red wine of Palestine, Pro 23:31) would, according to their usual practice, be mixed with water, Special stress would probably be laid at first on the office of breaking and distributing the bread, as that which represented the fatherly relation of the pastor to his flock, and his work as ministering to men the word of life. But if this was to be more than a common meal, after the pattern of the Essenes, it would be necessary to introduce words that would show that what was done was in remembrance of their Master. At some time before or after the meal of which they partook as such, the bread and the wine would be given with some special form of words or acts, to indicate its character. New converts would need some explanation of the meaning and origin of the observance. What would be so fitting and so much in harmony with the precedents of the paschal feast as the narrative of what had passed on the night of its institution (1Co 11:23-27)? With this there would naturally be associated (as in Act 2:42) prayers for themselves and others. Their gladness would show itself in the psalms and hymns with which they praised God (Hebrews 2:46,47; Jam 5:13). The analogy of the Passover, the general feeling of the Jews, and the practice of the Essenes may possibly have suggested ablutions, partial or entire, as a preparation for the feast (Heb 10:22; Joh 13:1-15; comp. Tertull. de Oral. c. 11; and, for the later practice of the Church, August. Serm. 244). At some point in the feast, those who were present, men and women sitting apart, would rise to salute each other with the “holy kiss” (1Co 16:20; 2Co 13:12; Clem. Alex. Paedagog. 3, c. 11; Tertull. de Orat. c. 14; Justin Mart. Apol. 2). Of the stages in the growth of the new worship we have, it is true, no direct evidence, but these conjectures from antecedent likelihood are confirmed by the fat that this order appears as the common element of all later liturgies.
The next traces that meet us are in 1 Corinthians, and the fact that we find them is in itself significant. The commemorative feast has not been confined to the personal disciples of Christ, or the Jewish converts whom they gathered round them at Jerusalem. It has been the law of the Church’s expansion that this should form part of its life everywhere. Wherever the apostles or their delegates have gone, they have taken this with them. he language of St. Paul, we must remember, is not that of a man who is setting forth a new truth, but of one who appeals to thoughts, words, phrases that are familiar to his readers, and we find accordingly evidence of a received liturgical terminology. The title of the “cup of blessing” (1Co 10:16), Hebrew in its origin and form (see above), has been imported into the Greek Church. The synonym of “the cup of the Lord” (1Co 10:21) distinguishes it from the other cups that belonged to the Agaps. The word “fellowship” (κοινωνία) is passing by degrees into the special signification of “communion.” The apostle refers to his own office as breaking the bread and blessing the cup (1Co 10:16). The table on which the bread was placed was the Lord’s table, and that title was to the Jew, not, as later controversies have made it, the antithesis of altar (θυσιαστήριον), but as nearly as possible a synonyme (Mal 1:7; Mal 1:12; Eze 41:22).
But the practice of the Agape, as well as the observance (of the commemorative feast, had been transferred to Corinth, and this called for a special notice. Evils had sprung up which had to be checked at once. The meeting of friends for a social meal, to which all contributed, was a sufficiently familiar practice in the common life of Greeks of this period, and these club-feasts were associated with plans of mutual relief or charity to the poor (comp. Smith’s Dict. of Gr. and Romans Antiq. s.v. Eranoi). The Agape of the new society would seem to him to be such a feast, and hence came a disorder that altogether frustrated the object of the Church in instituting it. Richer members came, bringing their supper with them, or appropriating what belonged to the common stock, and sat down to consume it without waiting till others were assembled and the presiding elder had taken his place. The poor were put to shame and defrauded of their share in the feast. Each was thinking of his own supper, not of that to which we now find attached the distinguishing title of “the Lord’s Supper.” When the time for that came, one was hungry enough to be looking to it with physical, not spiritual craving; another so overpowered with wine as to be incapable of receiving it with any reverence. It is quite conceivable that a life of excess and excitement, of overwrought emotion and unrestrained indulgence, such as this epistle brings before us, may have proved destructive to the physical as well as the moral health of those who were affected by it, and so she sickness and the deaths of which Paul speaks (1Co 11:30), as the consequences of this disorder, may have been so, not by supernatural infliction, but by the working of those general laws of the divine government which make the punishment the traceable consequence of the sin. In any case, what the Corinthians needed was to be taught to come to the Lord’s table with greater reverence, to distinguish (διακρίνειν) the Lord’s body from their common food. Unless they did so, they would bring upon themselves condemnation. What was to be the remedy for this terrible and growing evil he does not state explicitly. He reserves formal regulations for a later personal visit. In the mean time, he gives a rule which would make the union of the Agape and the Lord’s Supper possible without the risk of profanation. They were not to come even to the former with the keen edge of appetite. They were to wait till all were met, instead of scrambling tumultuously to help themselves (1Co 11:33-34). In one point, however, the custom of the Church of Corinth differed apparently from that of Jerusalem: the meeting for the Lord’s Supper was no longer daily (1Co 11:20; 1Co 11:33). The directions given in 1Co 16:2 suggest the constitution of a celebration on the first day of the week (compare Just. Mart. Apol. 1:67; Pliny, Ep. ad Trat.). The meeting at Troas was on the same day (Act 20:7).
The tendency of this language, and therefore, probably, of the order subsequently established, was to separate what had hitherto been united. We stand, as it were, at the dividing point of the history of the two institutions, and henceforth each takes its own course. The Agape, as belonging to a transient phase of the Christian life, and varying in its effects with changes in national character or forms of civilization, passes through many stages; becomes more and more a merely local custom, is found to be productive of evil rather than of good, is discouraged by bishops and forbidden by councils, and finally dies out. Traces of it linger in some of the traditional practices of the Western Church. There have been attempts to revive it among the Moravians and other religious communities, but in no considerable body does it survive in its original form.
On the other hand, the Lord’s Supper also has its changes. The morning celebration takes the place of the evening. New names — Eucharist, Sacrifice, Altar, Mass, Holy Mysteries — gather round it. New epithets and new ceremonies express the growing reverence of the people. The mode of celebration at the high altar of a basilica in the 4th century differs so widely from the circumstances of the original institution that a careless eye would have found it hard to recognize their identity. Speculations, controversies, superstitions, crystallize round this as their nucleus. Great disruptions and changes threaten to destroy the life and unity of the Church. Still, through all the changes, the Supper of the Lord vindicates its claim to universality, and bears a permanent testimony to the truths with which it was associated.
In Act 20:11 we have an example of the way in which the transition may have been effected. The disciples at Troas meet together to break bread. The hour is not definitely stated, but the fact that Paul’s discourse was protracted till past midnight, and the mention of the many lamps, indicate a later time than that commonly fixed for the Greek δεῖπνον. If we are not to suppose a scene at variance with Paul’s rule in 1Co 11:34, they must have had each his own sup. per before they assembled. Then came the teaching and the prayers, and then, towards early dawn, the breaking of bread, which constituted the Lord’s Supper, and for which they were gathered together. If this midnight meeting may be taken as indicating a common practice, originating in reverence for an ordinance which Christ had enjoined, we can easily understand how the next step would be (as circumstances rendered the midnight gatherings unnecessary or inexpedient) to transfer the celebration of the Eucharist permanently to the morning hour, to which it had gradually been approximating. Here also in later times there were traces of the original custom. Even when a later celebration was looked on as at variance with the general custom of the Church (Sozomen, supra) it was recognized as legitimate to hold an evening communion, as a special commemoration of the original institution, on the Thursday before Easter (Augustine, Ep. 118; ad Jan. c 5-7); and again on Easter eve, the celebration in the latter case probably taking place “very early in the morning, while it was yet dark” (Tertullian, ad Uxor. 2, c. 4).
The recurrence of the same liturgical words in Act 27:35 makes it probable, though not certain, that the food of which Paul thus partook was intended to have, for himself and his Christian companions, the character at once of the Agape and the Eucharist. The heathen soldiers and sailors, it may be noticed, are said to have followed his example, not to have partaken of the bread which he had broken. If we adopt this explanation, we have in this narrative another example of a celebration in the early hours between midnight and dawn (comp. Act 27:39), at the same time, i.e. as we have met with in the meeting at Troas.
All the distinct references to the Lord’s Supper which occur within the limits of the N.T. have, it is believed, been noticed. To find, as a recent writer has done (Christian Remembrancer, April 1860), quotations from the Liturgy of the Eastern Church in the Pauline Epistles involves (ingeniously as the hypothesis is supported) assumptions too many and bold to justify our acceptance of it. Extending the inquiry, however, to the times as well as the writings of the N.T., we find reason to believe that we can trace in the later worship of the Church some fragments of that which belonged to it from the beginning. The agreement of the four great families of liturgies implies the substratum of a common order. To that order may well have belonged the Hebrew words Hallelujah, Amen, Hosanna, Lord of Sabaoth; the salutations “Peace to all,” “Peace to thee;” the Sursum Corda (ἃνω σχῶμεν τάς καρδίας), the Trisagion, the Kyrie Eleison. We are justified in looking at these as having been portions of a liturgy that was really primitive; guarded from change with the tenacity with which the Christians of the 2d century clung to the traditions (the παραδόσεις of 2Th 2:15; 2Th 3:6) of the first, forming part of the great deposit (παρακαταθήκη) of faith and worship which they had received from the apostles and have transmitted to later ages (comp. Bingham, Eccles. Antiq. book 15, chapter 7; Augusti, Christl. Archaol. B. 8; Stanley on 1 Corinthians 10, 11).
III. Ecclesiastical Representations. — The Christian Church attached from the first great and mysterious importance to the Lord’s Supper. In accordance with the original institution, all Christians used wine and bread, with the exception of the Hydroparastates (Aquarii), who used water instead of wine, and the Artotvrites, who are said to have used cheese along with bread. The wine was generally mixed with water (κρᾶμα), a anan allegorical signification was given to the mixture of these two elements. In the writings of the fathers of the first three centuries we meet with some passages which speak distinctly of symbols, and, at the same time, with others which indicate belief in a real participation of the body and blood of Christ. Ignatius, Justin, and Irenaeus laid great stress on the mysterious connection subsisting between the Logos and the elements. Tertullian and Cyprian are representatives of the symbolical aspect, though both occasionally call the Lord’s Supper simply the body and blood of Christ. The symbolical interpretation prevails in particular among the Alexandrine school. Clement called it a mystic symbol which produces an effect only upon the mind, and Origen decidedly opposed those who took the external sign for the thing itself. The idea of a sacrifice, though not yet of a daily propitiatory sacrifice, appears in the writings of Justin and Irenaeus. Cyprian says that the sacrifice is made by the priest, who acts instead of Christ, and imitates what Christ did. It is not quite certain, but probable, that the Ebionites celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a commemorative feast; the mystical meals of some Gnostics, on the contrary, bear but little resemblance to the Lord’s Supper. The development of liturgies in and after the third century, and the introduction of many mystical ceremonies, showed that the fathers generally regarded the Lord’s Supper, with Chrysostom, as a “dreadful sacrifice.” They clearly speak of a real union of the communicants with Christ; some, also, of a real change from the visible elements into the body and blood of Christ. though most of their expressions can be understood both of consubstantiality or of transubstantiation.
Theodoret drew a clear distinction between the sign and the thing signified, while Augustine sought to unite its more profound mystical significance with the symbolical. Gelasius, bishop of Rome, very decidedly denied “the ceasing of the substance and nature of bread and wine.” The notion of a daily repeated sacrifice is distinctly set forth in the writings of Gregory the Great. A violent controversy concerning the Lord’s Supper arose in the 9th century. Paschasius Radbertus. a monk of Corvey, clearly propounded the doctrine of transubstantiation in his Liber de corpore et saltngutie Domini, addressed to the emperor Charles the Bald, between 830 and 832. He was opposed by Ratramnus in his treatise De corpore et sanguine Domini, which was written at the request of the emperor, who drew a distinction between the sign and the thing represented by it, between the internal and the external. The most eminent theologians of the age, as Rabanus Maurus and Scotus Erigena, took an active part in the controversy. Gerbert (afterwards pope Sylvester II) endeavored to illustrate the doctrine of transubstantiation by the aid of geometrical diagrams. Toward the middle of the 11th century the doctrine of transubstantiation was rejected by Berengar, canon of Tours (q.v.), who principally condemned the doctrine of an entire chasgnge in such a manner as to make the bread to cease to be bread. Several synods in succession, between 1050 and 1079, condemned his views. At one of these synods cardinal Humbert imposed upon Berengar an oath that he believed “corpus et sanguinem Domini non solum sacramento sed in veritate manibus sacerdotum tractari, frangi et fidelium dentibus atteri.” Among the scholastics, Lanfranc developed the distinction between the subject and the accidents. The term transubstantiatio was first used by Hildebert of Tours, though similar phrases, as transitio, had previously been employed (by Hugo of St.Victor and others). Most of the earlier scholastics, and, in particular, the followers of Lanfranc, defended both the change of the bread into the body of Christ and that of the “accidentia sine subjecto,” both of which were inserted in the Decretum Gratiani (about 1150), and declared an article of faith by the fourth Council of Lateran. Later, the Scholastics discussed a great many subtle questions, such as, Do animals partake of the body of Christ when they happen to swallow a consecrated host? By the institution of the Corpus-Christi day by pope Urban IV (1264), the doctrine of transubstantiation received a liturgical expression. However, a considerable time before, it had become a custom in the Latin Church that the laity received the Lord’s Supper only in the form of the host. Alexander Hales, Bonaventura, and Thomas Aquinas expressly demanded that only the priests should partake of the cup. The Hussites demanded the admission of the laity also to a partaking of the cup, and the refusal of this demand by the Council of Constance was one of the causes of the Hussite War. The doctrine that Christ existed wholly in either of the elements (for which doctrine the theologians used the expression concomitance) was expressly confirmed by the Council of Basle. The number of those who during the Middle Ages expressed their dissent from the doctrine of transubstantiation is limited.
The doctrine of impanation, or a coexistence of Christ’s body with the bread, was first advanced by John of Paris, who was followed by William Ockham and Durandus de Sancto Porciano. Both transubstantiation and impanation were combated by Wickliffe, who, with Berengar of Tours, believed it a change from the inferior to the superior. His views were probably shared by Jerome of Prague, while Huss seems to have believed in transubstantiation. The Reformers of the 16th century agreed in rejecting transubstantiation as unscriptural, but they differed among themselves in several points. Carlstadt believed that the words of institution were to be understood δεικτικῶς, i.e., that Christ, while speaking to them, had pointed at his own body. Zuingle took the word “is” (ἐστί) in the sense of signifies, and viewed the Lord’s Supper merely as an act of commemoration, and as a visible sign of the body and blood of Christ. (Ecolampadius differed from Zuingle only grammatically, retaining the literal meaning of “is,” but taking the predicate, “my body” (τὸ σῶμα μοῦ), in a figurative sense. Luther believed it impossible to put any of these constructions on the letter of the Scripture, and adhered to the doctrine of the real-presence of Christ’s body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine (consubstantiation). Together with this view he professed a belief in the ubiquity of the body of Christ. Calvin rejected the doctrine of the real presence; but, after the precedence of Bucer, Myronius, and others, spoke of a real, though spiritual participation of the body of Christ which exists in heaven. This participation, however, he restricted to the believer, while Luther agreed with the Roman Church in maintaining that also infidels partook of Christ’s body, though to their own hurt. Attempts at mediating between the views of Luther and Calvin were early made, and there were crypto-Calvinists in the Lutheran, and crypto-Lutherans in the Calvinistic churches. But the Ltheran view received a dogmatic fixation in the Formula Concordiae, which shut out any further influence of Calvinism. The decline of Lutheran orthodoxy in general caused also the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper to grow into disuse, and the Protestant theologians generally adopted the views either of Calvin or of Zuinusgle.
The latter, at length, prevailed. (See the Brit. and For. Ev. Rev. October 1860; Muller, De Lutheri et Calvini sententiae de Sacra Coena, Hal. 1853.) It was in particular, adopted by the Arminian churches, as also by the Socinians. In the Church of England there was from the beginning a real-presence and a spiritual-presence party, and the controversy between them frequently became very hot. The real-presence party generally agreed with the doctrine of the Lutheran Church, but some of its writers advanced views more resembling those of the Roman Church. In the 19th century the High-Church parties of the German Lutheran Church, and of the Episcopal Church of England, Scotland, and America, revived and emphasized again the doctrine of the real presence. Under the influence of rationalistic theology and speculative theology a number of new interpretations sprang up like mushrooms, and disappeared again just as fast. The leading theologians of the United Evangelical Church of Germany in the 19th century fell back on the doctrine of Calvin, and emphasized the (real and objective communication of the whole God-man Christ to the believer, and the same views have become predominant in the German Reformed Church of America. Very different from the doctrine of all the larger Christian denominations were the views which some mystic writers of the ancient and mediaeval Church intimated, and which were fully developed in the 16th century by Paracelsus, and afterwards adopted by the Society of Friends. They regard communion as something essentially internal and mystical, and deny the Lord’s Supper to be an ordinance which Christ desired to have perpetuated. — Lavater, Historia controversiae Sacramentariae (Tig. 1672); Hospinianus, Hist. Sacramentaria (Tig. 1602); Planck, Geschichte d. Entstehung, etc., des protest. Lehrbegriffs, 2:204 sq., 471 sq.; 3, (1.) 376 sq.; 4:6 sq.; 5, (1) 89 sq., 211 sq., (2) 7 sq.; 6:732 sq.
IV. Form of Celebration. —
1. The Elements. —
(a) At the institution of the Lord’s Supper Christ used unleavened bread. The primitive Christians carried with them the bread and wine for the Lord’s Supper, and took the bread which was used at common meals, which was leavened bread. When this custom ceased, together with the Agape, the Greeks retained the leavened bread, while in the Latin Church the unleavened bread became common since the 8th century. Out of this difference a dogmatic controversy in the 11th century arose, the Greek Church reproaching the Latin for the use of unleavened bread, and making it heresy. At the Council of Florence, in 1439, which attempted to unite both churches, it was agreed that either might be used; but the Greeks soon rejected, with the council also, the toleration of the unleavened bread, and still maintain the opposite ground at the present day.
We see, from 1Co 11:24, that in the apostolic Church the bread was broken. This custom was discontinued in the Roman Church when, in the 12th and 13th centuries, the host or holy wafer was cut in a peculiar way, so as to represent upon it a crucified Savior. Luther retained the wafer, but the Reformed churches reintroduced the use of common bread and the breaking of it. The same was the case with the Socinians and the United Evangelical Church of Germany. In the Episcopal Church of England, and the churches derived from it, cut pieces of common wheaten bread are given into the hands of the communicants. See J.G. Hermann, Hist. convertationum de pane asymo (Lips. 1737); Marheineke, Das Brod in Abendmahle (Berlin, 1817).
(b) The second element used by Christ was wine. It is not certain of what color the wine was, nor whether it was pure or mixed with water, and both points were always regarded as indifferent by the Christian Church. The use of mixed wine is said to have been introduced by pope Alexander I; it was expressly enacted in the 12th century by Clement III, and divers allegorical significations were given to the mingling of these two elements. Also the Greek Church mingles the wine with water, while the Armenian and the Protestant churches use pure wine. The question as to whether the wine originally used in the Lord’s Supper was fermented or not, would seem to be a futile one in view of the fact,
1. that the unfermented juice of the grape can hardly, with propriety, be called wine at all;
2. that fermented wine is of almost universal use in the East; and,
3. that it has invariably been employed for this purpose in the Church of all ages and countries.
But for the excessive zeal of certain modern well-meaning reformers, the idea that our Lord used any other would hardly have gained the least currency.
In accordance with the original institution, both elements were used separately during the first centuries, but it became early a custom to carry to sick persons bread merely dipped in wine. The Manichaeans, who abstained wholly from wine, were strongly opposed by teachers of all other parties, and pope Gelasius I, of the 5th, called their practice grande sacrilegiumn. In the 10th century it became frequent in the West to use only consecrated bread dipped in wine, but it was not before the end of the 13th century that, in accordance with the doctrine, then developed by the Scholastics, that Christ was wholly present in both bread and wine, and that the partaking of the bread was sufficient, the Church began to withhold the wine from the laity altogether. The Waldenses, Wickliffe, Huss, and Savonarola protested against this withdrawal of the cup, and all the Protestant denominations agreed in restoring the use of both elements. The Greek Church has always used the wine for the laity also. See Spitler, Geschichte des Kelches im Abendmahl (Lemgo, 1780); Schmidt, De fatis calicis eucharistici (Helmstadt, 1708).
2. Consecration and Distribution of the Elements. — To “consecrate” meant in the ancient Church only to set apart from common and devote to a sacred use. But, by degrees, a magical effect was attributed to consecration, as was already done by Augustine, and when the doctrine of transubstantatiation became prevalent in the Roman Church, it was supposed that the pronunciation of the words “This is my body” changed the elements into the body and blood of Christ. The formula which were used at the consecration were at first free, but afterwards fixed by written liturgies. All liturgies contain the words of institution and a prayer; the liturgy of the Greek Church, moreover, a prayer to the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. In the ancient Church both elements were distributed by the deacons, afterwards only the wine; at a later period of the Church, again, both elements. According to the Protestant theologians, the administration belongs properly to the ministers of the Church; but Luther, and many theologians with him, maintained that where no regular teachers can be obtained, this sacrament may be administered by other Christians to whom this duty is committed by the Church.
3. Time and Place. — In the apostolic Church, as we have seen, the Lord’s Supper was regularly celebrated in the public assemblies, hence in private dwellings, at common tables, during the persecutions in hidden places at the sepulchers of the martyrs, and, later, in the churches at special tables or altars. In imitation of its first celebration by Christ, it was at first celebrated at night; later, it became almost universally connected with the morning service. In the primitive Church, Christians partook of it almost daily; and when this was made impossible by the persecutions, at least several times a week, or certainly on Sundays. In the 5th century many theological writers complain of the laxity of Christians in the participation of the Lord’s Supper, and afterwards several synods had to prescribe that all Christians ought to partake of it at least a certain number of times. The fourth Synod of Lateran, in 1415, restricted it to once a year. The Reformers insisted again on a more frequent participation, without, however, making any definite prescriptions as to the number of times. Many of the Protestant states punished those who withdrew altogether from it with exile, excommunication, and the refusal of a Christian burial.
4. Persons by whom, and the Manner in which the Lord’s Supper is received. — In the primitive Church all baptized persons were admitted to the Lord’s Supper; afterwards the catechumens and the lapsi were excluded from it. Communion of infants is found in an early period, and is still used in the Greek Church. See Zorn, Hist. eucharist. infant. (Berl. 1742). To those who were prevented from being present at the public service the consecrated elements were carried by deacons. Thus it was especially carried to the dying as a Viaticum, and until the 5th or 6th century it was even placed in the mouth of the dead, or in their coffin (see Schmidt, De eucharistia mortuorum, Jena, 1645).
The apostles received the Lord’s Supper reclining, according to Eastern custom. Since the 4th century the communicants used to stand, afterwards to kneel, the men with uncovered head, the women covered with a long white cloth.
Since the 4th century a certain order was introduced in approaching the communion table, so that first the higher and lower clergy, and afterwards the laity came.
The self-communion of the laity is prohibited by all Christian denominations. The self-communion of officiating clergymen is the general usage in the Roman Church, but also permitted and customary in the Episcopal Church, among the Moravians, and with other denominations.
5. Ceremonies in Celebration. — In the Roman Church the communicants, after having confessed and received absolution, approach the communion table, which stands at some distance from the altar, and receive kneeling a host from the priest, who passes round, taking the host out of a chalice which he holds in his left hand, repeating for each communicant the words “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam.” The communion service of the Greek Church is nearly the same as that of the ancient Church.
In the Lutheran Church the communion is preceded by a preparatory service, confession (q.v.). After the sermon the clergyman consecrates the host and the wine at the altar. Amid the singing of the congregation, the communicants, first the men, then the women, step, either singly or two at a time, to the altar, where the clergyman places the host in their mouth, and reaches to them the cup, using the following or a similar formula: “Take, eat, this is the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; it may strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto life everlasting. Amen. Take, drink, this is the blood,” etc. The service is concluded with a prayer of thanks, and with the blessing. During the service frequently candles burn on the altar.
In the Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational, Arminian, etc., churches, the service begins commonly with a formula containing the passage 1 Corinthians 11. The communicants step, in most places singly, to the communion table, and the broken bread and the cup are given into their own hands. In some places they remain sitting in the pews, where the elders carry to them bread and wine; in others, twelve at a time sit around a table. Private communion of the sick is an exception. In the Episcopal Church of England the service of the Lord’s Supper is immediately preceded by a general confession of sins, which is followed by a prayer of consecration and the words of institution. The clergymen first commune themselves, then the communicants who approach without observing any distinction, and kneel down at the communion table, receiving the bread (which is cut) and the cup into their hands. The same service takes place in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and substantially in the Methodist churches.
The Socinians have, on the day before they celebrate the Lord’s Supper, a preparation (“discipline”) with closed doors, when the preacher exhorts the Church members, rebukes their faults, reconciles enemies, and sometimes excludes those guilty of grave offices from the Church. On the following day, at public service, the altar tables are spread and furnished with bread and wine. The communicants sit down round the table, and take with their hands the bread, which is broken by the preacher, and the cup.
The service of the Moravians approaches that of the primitive Church. It is celebrated every fourth Sunday at the evening service, and was formerly connected with the Agage (love feasts), washing of feet, and the kiss of peace.
On the ceremonies in the Eastern churches, see Ritus Orientalium, Coptorum, Synrorunm, et Armenorum, in administrandis Sacramentis. Ex Assemanis, Renandotio, Trombellio aliisque fontibus authenticis collectos. Edidit Henricus Denziger, Ph. et S. Th. Doc. et in Univ. Wirceburgensi Theol. Dogmat. Prof. (tom. 1, London, D. Nutt, 1863).
V. The Literature on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is very extensive. A history of the doctrine was given by Schulz (Rationalistic), Die christliche Lehre vom heiligen Abendmahle (2d ed. Leipsic, 1831); Ebrard (Evangelical), Das Dogma voms Abendmahl und seine Geschichte (Frankfort, 1845); Kahnis (High Lutheran), Die Lehre vom Abendmahle (Leipsic, 1851); L.J. Ruckert (Rationalistic), Das Abendmahl, sein Wesen und seine Geschichte in der alten Kirche (Leipsic, 1856, 2 volumes). For many other foreign monographs, see Danz, Worterbuch, s.v. Abendmahl; Volbeding, Index, page 50; Hase, Leben Jesu, page 194; Malcom, Theol. Index, page 275. The following are the principal English works on the subject: Wilberforce (Puseyite), Doctrine of the Eucharist (Lond. 1853). and Sermons on the Holy Communion (ib. 1854); J. Taylor (in opposition to Wilberforce), True Doctrine of the Eucharist (London, 1855); Goode (W.), Nature of Christ’s Person in the Eucharist (1856); Pusey (E.B.), Real Presence (1853-7); Freeman, Principles of Divine Service; Turton (Bp.), Eucharist, and Wiseman’s Reply (in ten Essays, 1854). More general are Dorner, Doctrine of the Person of Christ (Edinburgh, 1864, 5 volumes, 8vo), volume 2, div. 2, page 116; and his Protest. Theol. page 298; Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, volume 1, § 73; Heppe, Dogmatik, page 455; Cunningham, Hist. Theol. 1:205; 2:142 sq.; Auberlen, Dis. Revel. page 210 sq.; Browne, Exposition of the XXXIX Articles, page 683 sq.; Forbes, Explan. of the XXXIX Articles, 2:496; Martensen, Christian Dogmatics, page 482 sq.; J. Pye Smith, Christian Theology, page 686 sq.; Baur, Dogmensgesch. 3:10, 247; Liddon, Our Lord’s Divinity (see Index under Eucharist); Munscher, Dogmengesch. 2:673 sq. See also Ch. of Engl. Quart. 1855, January art. 1; Evangel. Rev. 1866, page 369 sq.; Method. Quart. Rev. 1860 (October), page 648 sq.; 1870 (April), page 301; Jatrb. deutsche Theol. 1867, 2:21 sq.; 1868, volume 1 and 2; 1870, volume 3 and 4; Stud. u. Krit. 1841, 3:715 sq.; 1839, 1:69, 123; 1840, 2:389; 1844, 2:409; 1866, 2:362; Hilgenfeld, Zeitschr. Wissensch. Theol. 1867, p. 84; Christian Monthly, 1844 (May), page 542; Christian Renmemb. 1853 (October), pages 93, 263; 1867, page 84; Kitto, Journ. Sac. Lit. 1854 (October), page 102; Bibl. Sacra, 1862, art. 6; 1863, page 3; Hercersb. Rev. 1858, page 103; Chr. Review, 1866, page 11 sq.; Christian Rev. 40, 191; Lit. and Theol. Rev. 1836 (September); Bapt. Quart. Review, 1870 (October), page 497; Contemp. Rev. 1868 (July and November); Edinb. Rev. 1867 (April), page 232; Brit. Quart. Rev. 1868, page 113; Princeton Rev. 1848; Brit. and For. Ev. Review, 1868, page 431; Westm. Rev. 1871, page 96 sq. An account of the mode of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper by the various denominations is given by Scheibel, Feier des heiligen Abendmahls bei den verschiedenen Religionsparteien (Breslau, 1824).
(From McClintock and Strong’s “ Cyclopedia”)