Tag Archives: Eucharist

Today With Zwingli: Writing a Friend

At the end of a letter discussing such fun theological topics as ‘synechdoche’, Zwingli makes this interesting remark about the Eucharist-

In eucharistiae re gratulor vobis, te nostrum esse factum. Verum gratiam meretur novitas; brevi enim spero omnes, qui adhuc obstrepunt, tropum, qui nullo negocio videri vobis debebat, visuros esse, ac sententiae nostrae simplicitatem ac claritatem. Una est spiritualis manducatio, quo filio dei, pro nobis delitato, fidimus, non duę; quarum altera nescio quod verborum figmentum prodimus, carnaliter, corporaliter, spiritualiter.

That kernal of thought would bear fruit in 1529.  And forever after.

Jacob Edlibach’s Letter and Zwingli’s Marginal Notes and Response

290994Responsio brevis ad epistolam satis longam amici cuiusdam haud vulgaris, in qua de eucharistia quaestio tractatur, was published 14 August 1526. The first half is a letter of Edlibach on which Zwingli made marginal notes and the second half is a letter from Zwingli to Edlibach responding more fully to Edlibach’s suggestions.

Part of Zwingli’s reply is this tidbit:

Vide nunc collectionem demonstrativam; neque enim ex singularibus aliter licet syllogizare:

  • Medium: corpus Christi.
  • Maior extremitas: pro nobis traditum.
  • Minor extremitas: panis. Corpus Christi est, quod pro nobis traditur. Panis est corpus Christi.
  • Ergo: Panis pro nobis traditur.
  • Dissolve, quaeso, hanc demonstrationem! Cum ergo non possis, cede, quaeso, veritati et dic: “Quod pro vobis traditur” [Luc. 22. 19] certam notam esse, qua deprehenditur tropicum esse sermonem: “Hoc est corpus meum” [Matth. 26. 26]; nam panis non est pro nobis traditus.

Point by point Zwingli convincingly addresses Edlibach’s concerns. The letter is edited in Zwingli’s Works and in the Theologisches Zeitschrift last century it was discussed and described as follows:



Today With Zwingli

zw9089It was on Christmas Day, 1523 that the celebration of the Mass was replaced in Zurich by a simpler and far more biblical celebration of the Lord’s Supper. As noted by S.M. Jackson, earlier that month…

Zwingli … plainly announced that on the coming Christmas day, Friday, December 25, 1523, the Lord’s Supper would be administered under both forms, and daily thereafter there would be a brief Bible exposition in place of the daily mass.

This caused a bit of a stir, of course, but the City soon adjusted to the proper practice of the Supper and soon it was widely embraced.

Which nicely illustrates that when the Bible is correctly interpreted, good Christian folk have no problems changing their behavior in order to adhere more closely to it.

Zwingli Describes the Marburg Colloquy to his Friend Vadian

In an attempt to unify the Protestant forces, in 1529 Philip of Hesse invited Zwingli and Luther to meet in the city of Marburg. There, from October 1 to 4, discussion turned into rancorous debate, as it quickly became evident that on the paramount issue of the Eucharist neither side was ready to make concessions. This letter is Zwingli’s account of the exchange.

Letter to Vadian (20 October 1529)

vadianThe landgrave decided that there should be separate preliminary conferences in private, Oecolampadius with Luther and Melanchthon with Zwingli, to seek between themselves for any possible measure of agreement that could lead to peace. Here Luther’s reaction to Oecolampadius was such that he came to me and privately complained that once again he had come up against Eck! Don’t tell this to anyone you can’t trust.

Melanchthon I found uncommonly slippery; he kept changing his shape like another Proteus, forced me—in lieu of salt!—to use my pen as a weapon and keep my hand dry, so that I could hold him fast for all his chafings and wrigglings and dodgings.

I am sending you a copy of a few extracts from our very lengthy conversations on the understanding that you will only show it to those you can trust—I mean, to those who will not use it to stir up another crisis: remember that Philip [Melanchthon] has a copy too, for I drew it up in his presence and under his eye, and many of his own words he actually dictated. But the last thing we want is to bring on a new crisis. Philip and I spent six hours together, Luther and Oecolampadius three.

melanc42On the next day the four of us entered the arena in the presence of the landgrave and a few others—twenty-four at most; we fought it out in this and in three further sessions, thus making four in all in which, with witnesses, we fought our winning battle. Three times we threw at Luther the fact that he had at other times given a different exposition from the one he was now insisting on of those ridiculous ideas of his, that Christ suffered in his divine nature, that the body of Christ is everywhere, and that the flesh profits nothing; but the dear man had nothing to say in reply—except that on the matter of the flesh profiting nothing he said: “You know, Zwingli, that all the ancient writers have again and again changed their interpretations of passages of Scripture as time went on and their judgment matured.”

He said: “The body of Christ is eaten and received into our body in the bodily sense [corporaliter], but at the same time I reserve my judgment on whether the human spirit eats his body too”—when a little before he had said: “the body of Christ is eaten by the mouth in the bodily sense, but the human spirit does not eat him in the bodily sense.” He said: “[the bread and wine] are made into the body of Christ by the utterance of these words—‘This is my body’—however great a criminal one might be who pronounces them.” He conceded that the body of Christ is finite. He conceded that the Eucharist may be called a “sign” of the body of Christ. These and others are examples of the countless inconsistencies, absurdities and follies which he babbles out like water lapping on the shore; but we refuted him so successfully that the landgrave himself has now come down on our side, though he does not say so in the presence of some of the princes.

The Hessian entourage, almost to a man, has withdrawn from Luther’s position. The landgrave himself has given permission for our books to be read with impunity, and in future will not allow “bishops” who share our views to be ejected from their place. John, the Saxon prince, was not there, but [Ulrich of] Württemberg was.

We finally left [Marburg] with certain agreements which you will soon see in print. The truth prevailed so manifestly that if ever anyone was beaten it was the foolish and obstinate Luther. He was clearly defeated, as any wise and fair judge would agree, although he now makes out that he was not beaten. We have, however, achieved this much good, that our agreement on the rest of the doctrines of the Christian religion will prevent the papal party from hoping any longer that Luther will be on their side. … *

*D. Janz, A Reformation reader: Primary texts with introductions, pp. 161–162.

Today With Zwingli

On 17 August, 1525 (a very, very busy year for Zwingli) he published his Subsidium sive coronis de eucharistia which he dedicated thusly:

Clarissimis viris Bartolemaeo a Madiis, Bernensium a soenatu, Volfgango et Claudio filiis, Jacobo et Benedicto nepotibus ac pronepotibus eius totique genti Huldrychus Zuinglius, gratiam et pacem a deo.

The book came to life, according to Zwingli, as a result of a dream he had in which in a moment of inspiration, he saw clearly, for the first time, the true meaning of the Supper.   Specifically, he remarks that Exodus 12 came to mind while he was lying in bed and that he sprang to his feet, opened his Septuagint (which he apparently kept right at his bedside) and read it.  The next day, they discussed it at the Prophezei and that discussion became the outline of the present book.

What, you may be wondering, has Ex 12 to do with the Eucharist?  Zwingli noted in explaining his discovery that just as the events of the Passover were ‘memorialized’ in the passover meal, so too the death of Jesus was ‘memorialized’ in the Supper.

Listen Luther, You’re Just Wrong…

‘But I’m going to try to explain this to you in as friendly a manner as I possibly can…’

Those words could easily have been in Zwingli’s mind when he published, on the 8th of February 1527, his Amica Exegesis, id est: expositio eucharistiae negocii ad Martinum Lutherum.

He commences

Martino Luthero Huldrychus Zuinglius

gratiam et pacem a domino. Solet omnium curator ac dispositor deus sic humanas frustrari spes aut saltem ludere, Luthere doctissime, ut, qui victoriam se putent ambabus alis tenere, saepe tamen evolet, et contra, ubi minimum erat spei, isthic subitam adparere salutem. Quae me varietas consiliorum eius aliquandiu retinuit, quominus ad te nostram istam exegesim darem.

The book which follows is a step by step easy to understand exposition of the Lord’s Supper.  Unfortunately, Luther didn’t get it.  But he didn’t want to get it.  Even when they all met a couple of years later at Marburg, Luther couldn’t be convinced by Scripture or sound reasoning.  He remained, to the end, invincibly ignorant on the subject.

Nevertheless, Zwingli’s book is worthwhile reading.  Enjoy!

Zwingli: To Philipp

11 Jan 1527

Huldrichus Zuinglius Philippo Badensi marchioni S.

Gratiam et pacem a domino. Respersit omnium, qui apud nos sunt piorum aures pietatis tuę fama, clarissime marchio, quę me tam confidentem reddidit, ut mortalium omnium postremus ad te, dominum meum observandissimum, istas dare nihil sim cunctatus. Adstipulatae sunt proposito tua illa insignis bonitas ac ingenii vere ingenui dexteritas et, quae alios deterrere potuisset, amplitudo. Invitavit quoque super omnia iudicii sanctitas, quae in principibus ut rara, pro dolor, est hac tempestate, ita in te incorrupta nitet, ut nemo conscientia bona fretus non audeat intrepide ad te accedere.

Cum ergo Jacobus Struthio, homo fortasse audentior quam doctior, loquentior quam circumspectior, libellum in nos ediderit, se quidem non magnopere, te vero, illustrissimo ac optimo principe, indignissimum, quo et eucharistiae veritatem subruere et, quam in euangelii sui ministerio autoritatem dominus dedit, contaminare ex professo etiam nititur, nihil cessandum esse duxi, quo minus istius impudentiae responderemus, propterea quod esset a sacris concionibus tuis.

Certus enim sum, quod, quicquid tandem in considerationem veniat, ubi veritas eius singulari prudentiae tuae planius exponatur, nullatenus offensum iri posse. Est ergo eucharistię causa nobis hoc libello denuo tractata; faxit deus, ut omnia in gloriam suam cedant, non hercle quasi prius non sint affatim omnia prodita, sed ut, qui contentiosi sunt, plane videant, verborum figmentis veri faciem obscurare nequire, semperque futuros esse, qui illius amore non modo silere, sed non in discrimen quoque venire nolint.

Lege ergo, si licet ac decet, eum libellum, neque hic quicquam dictum puta in sacrosanctam pietatem tuam. Videbis haud dubie indigne facere, qui rem minime compertam sic apud indoctam plebem traducunt. Boni facito pro tua bonitate omnia et, ut euangelio eiusque ministris hactenus tanquam Abdias [1. Kön. 18, 3ff.] patrocinatus es, perge.

Tiguri, 11. die Januarii 1527.

The Eucharistic conflict wouldn’t be settled later on at the Colloquy at Marburg, not matter how much the participants wished. The divide was too wide and the underlying theological perspectives too different. For Luther, salvation was the work of God, and man (who cooperated in his own salvation by receiving the instruments of grace). For Zwingli, it was the work of God alone. These two views are incompatible and irreconcilable.

Today With Zwingli

Johannes Bugenhagen consecrated the first Luth...

Johannes Bugenhagen

Ioanni Bugenhagio Pomerano Huldricus Zuinglius gratiam et pacem a deo.

Equidem, docte vir, si unquam vel parandi nominis vel contendendi studio flagravissem, satis iustam occasionem hac tua de eucharistia epistola nactus essem; quam secutus vulgo possem utrique adfectui iure indulsisse videri. Nunc vero qum hoc, videlicet ex contentione vel glorię cupiditate scribere, tam alienum esse debeat a Christiano homine, quam est, pro dolor, hac tempestate vulgare, statui, ut liberrime ac constantissime, sic moderate et amice ad omnia tua respondere.

Bugenhagen had written Zwingli asking him to clarify his view of the ‘Lord’s Supper’ and on the 23rd of October in 1525 Zwingli obliged with his Responsio ad epistolam Ioannis Bugenhagii.

Peppered with Scriptural proofs, Zwingli shows Bugenhagen in meticulous detail why ‘hoc est’ in the celebration of the body of Christ in the Supper should be understood “significat”. ‘This signifies my body…’ etc.

Zwingli’s view persuaded many but it didn’t persuade Luther or the other Catholics of Luther’s mindset. It never could, because Luther was far too chained to his mystical past.

Stabbed in the Back

On the 24th of August, 1528, Huldrych Zwingli published the forward to a new volume by Caspar Schwenckfeld of Ossig, Zwinglis Vorrede zu Schwenckfelds ‘Anweisung’.  In it he congratulated Schwenkfeld on his good work and his insightful comprehension of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.  After all, Schwenkfeld wrote, among other things, that

The Holy Spirit is not bound to any earthly word.  Rather, Christ, the True Word of God, gives himself in the Holy Spirit apart from external mediation to the believing children of God.

Unfortunately Schwenkfeld had asked Zwingli to write the forward to his volume without telling him that he (Zwingli) would soon himself be the target of his (Schwenkfeld’s) attack.  In short, Schwenkfeld deceived, and used Zwingli and then stabbed him in the back.

The wretch was rightly driven from his home in 1529 and lived the rest of his days wandering, unwelcome, from town to town.  And it was a right long wandering, since he didn’t die until 1561, despised by Reformed, Lutheran, and Catholic.

Subsidium sive coronis de eucharistia: Today with Zwingli

What is the Eucharist?  Is it a sacrifice?  A memorial?  The means by which salvation is conferred?  A simple sign?  Those were the questions plaguing the Reformation beginning as early as 1522 and coming to a head in 1529 at the Marburg Colloquy.

In 1525 Huldrych Zwingli addressed the question in a quite scholarly volume titled Subsidium sive coronis de eucharistia and published on the 17th of August.

The story of Zwingli’s coming to a clear understanding, finally, of the meaning of the Eucharist is related by himself in this volume.  He remarks that Exodus 12 came to mind while he was lying in bed and that he sprang to his feet, opened his Septuagint (which he apparently kept right at his bedside) and read it.  The next day, they discussed it at the Prophezei and that discussion became the outline of the present book.

What, you may be wondering, has Ex 12 to do with the Eucharist?  Zwingli noted in explaining his discovery that just as the events of the Passover were ‘memorialized’ in the passover meal, so too the death of Jesus was ‘memorialized’ in the Supper.

Texas, Seriously, What’s Wrong with You?

A Catholic church turned away eight-year-old Kevin Castro of Floresville, Texas, from his First Communion because he had cerebral palsy, according to the boy’s family.  When the Rev. Phil Henning of Sacred Heart Catholic Church denied Kevin his first reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Henning said the boy had “the mental capacity of a 6-month old” and didn’t have “sufficient knowledge of Christ” to participate in the religious rite, even though Catholic doctrine doesn’t specify what level of knowledge is adequate.

People with CP can comprehend things quite well.  I’ve known a couple of people who suffer from the disorder and their minds are quite sharp.  Silly priest.  There’s something in the water in Texas.  Via Antonio.

Huldrych Zwingli as Book Reviewer

Coloured woodcut of the Marburg Colloquy, anon...

On the 24th of August, in 1528, Zwingli commended (with reservations) a new volume by Caspar Schwenkfeld to an interested public.  The book, about, naturally, the right understanding of the Lord’s Supper (it was 1528, the Lord’s Supper was on everyone’s mind).  In it S. asserted that the Holy Spirit doesn’t bind itself to human words (or things), but Christ, the true Word of God, distributes himself without intermediary to the people of God through the Spirit.

What Zwingli didn’t know when he commended the volume was that Schwenkfeld, after having gone after Luther and the Catholics, would soon make Zwingli his target.

Schwenkfeld’s volume was read by few and soon fell into utter disuse.  If it had been possible back then, you could easily have walked into your neighborhood bookstore and bought a copy for a penny just a few months after it appeared.  And Schwenkfeld’s life ended the same way his book did- as insignificant and unnoticed- a wanderer without followers or importance.  What he shows, though, is that anyone can write one thing that someone else will notice; but soon forget.