Thursday, December 23, 2010

Incarnation and the Eucharist

Every Christmas time I find I become more and more saddened by Protsteant theologies that deny the Real Presence of our Lord in the Supper. It's sad because to deny Christ in the Supper cuts directly across what we proclaim at Christmas, the Word of God Incarnate for our salvation. As we proclaim that Christ Came down from heaven to dwell with us in the flesh, we hear those who preach that the Supper cannot in fact be Christ come down from heaven to dwell with us in the flesh. The disconnect is disconcerting.

I would direct you to The Letter of Igantius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans. This is a fantastic letter, which I encourage you to read today. In it, Ignatius deals mainly with the docetists, those who taught that Christ only appeared to have a body. While modern day Protestants are not docetists - I do find some similarity in that they reduce the Eucharist to a mere symbol. Here are some quotes from Ignatius with some commentary from me.

I Glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom. For I have observed that you are perfected in an immoveable faith, as if you were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in the flesh and in the spirit, and are established in love through the blood of Christ, being fully persuaded with respect to our Lord, that He was truly of the seed of David according to the flesh, and the Son of God according to the will and power of God; that He was truly born of a virgin, was baptized by John, in order that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him; and was truly, under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, nailed [to the cross] for us in His flesh. Of this fruit we are by His divinely-blessed passion, that He might set up a standard for all ages, through His resurrection, to all His holy and faithful [followers], whether among Jews or Gentiles, in the one body of His Church.

It's worth while as we approach Christmas to note just how directly incarnational Igantius is. We are dealing with a Real God who becomes a Real Man with a Real Body to bring about salvation. He is clear on this. Others, though, are not.

For what does any one profit me, if he commends me, but blasphemes my Lord, not confessing that He was [truly] possessed of a body? But he who does not acknowledge this, has in fact altogether denied Him, being enveloped in death.

Now, this stands in sharp contrast to our world today. We are so eager for the praise of all - yet Ignatius' approach is different. Who cares if someone likes me but blasphemes my Lord! Yet, we can be so eager to please, to make sure everyone likes us - when our focus should be upon proclaiming the Lord.

Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation. "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Let not [high] place puff any one up: for that which is worth all is faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred. But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty. Let us stand aloof from such heretics. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again.

This disregard for Christ manifests itself in a lack of love for the neighbor (and rather a focus on individual "piousness" that puffs up) and also a disdain for the Eucharist. And again, note that this is tied to a direct denial of the Supper being Christ's Body and Blood. There is a direct tie there. What does this mean?

It is fitting, therefore, that you should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.

And some say that Closed Communion is some sort of modern invention. Poppycock! Don't worry about what the heretics say )other than to refute) - rather give heed to the Word of God, God's true revelation - and be content with that.

The Christian faith is so focused upon the Body of Christ - that Christ took up a Body, suffered and died in that Body, rose in that Body, so that we might live in our own bodies. And a denial of the Supper cuts across this, cuts across everything that we are preparing to celebrate.

God grant that Pieper's felicitous inconsistency holds!

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