Most Important Word
So the ought becomes a may What has been an external demand, impinging on and provoking self-concern, fear, and rebellion, now becomes another gift—an even better one. Incorporated into the self-giving of Christ, becoming one of his beneficiaries, a person may “live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” A new situation has been created, new possibility has actually been given.
In a will, the more current name for a testament, the deceased bestows his or her belongings upon the beneficiaries. There is no payment involved, even if the tax collector attempts to collect later. The testator gives, and the heirs receive
Until 1520, the Lord’s Supper, in its late-medieval manifestation as the Mass, was a feast for the eyes and a ceremony for the dead.
And every day, at the countless altars dotting the interior of many churches, thousands upon thousands of masses were recited privately for dead souls languishing in purgatory.
Luther insisted that the Mass—far from being a visual feast and sacrifice—was a real feast, meant to be eaten and drunk while hearing the Word of Christ’s forgiving presence.
He immediately drew another parallel to his explanation of baptism, noting that just as baptism was not “mere” water, so the Supper was not “mere” bread and wine: “Rather, it is bread and wine set within God’s Word and bound to it.”
He wrote, “That is to say, in brief, that we go to the sacrament because there we receive a great treasure, through and in which we obtain the forgiveness of sins.” Indeed, Luther immediately added that the Supper provided the believer “food for the soul” to be used against sin, death, and all evils as a daily living out of one’s baptism.
In the Small Catechism, then, Luther reduced the benefits of the Supper to three: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, arguing that where the one was literally promised (“given for you … shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”), the others quite naturally came along.
Luther concluded, “The treasure is opened and placed at everyone’s door, yes, upon the table, but it also belongs to the sacrament to take it and confidently believe that it is just as the words tell you.”