Nicholas Thompson ( Eucharistic Sacrifice And Patristic Tradition In The Theology Of Martin Bucer 1534-1546 ) stresses the importance of the second great commandment for Martin Bucer’s Eucharistic reforms: “love of neighbour necessarily implied the communion of believerswith one another and with Christ in the fellowship of the one body.In Grund und Ursach Bucer noted that Paul had called the sacrament Gemeinschafft ; a name that remained among the Greeks [as Synaxis ] andamong the Latins as Collect. The antichrists with their sacrifices hadseen to it that the memory of this latter title had almost disappeared” (106).

For Bucer, restoring the liturgical rule of love had practical and theological import.

Practically, it meant that the Lord’s service should be a unified event: “Bucer proposed that a single service on Sunday replacethe daily Mass, that a single common table replace the multiple altars,and that the people be encouraged not merely to hear the Mass, butto share at the one table. In this common celebration the people wouldrecall their common redemption from sin by the sacrifice of Christsbody and blood so that they had now had nothing of their own butheld everything in common in the fellowship of the one bread and theone body” (106).

Theologically, it led Bucer to emphasize the corporate dimensions of the Eucharist, a theme that came to prominence “in Bucers re-appropriation of the language of bodilyand substantial presence from the early 1530s” (107). For the later Bucer, “the communion in the body of Christ was no mere figure of speechbut a work of God whereby the Lord dwelt in the faithful naturallyand bodily. Augustine, he wrote, meant that Christ imparted his truebody and blood offered up on the cross in order that he might be inthe faithful and they in him, his limbs and his body . . . .in the 1530s the Lords Supper became for Bucer not merelyfaithful proclamation of what the church and the faithful had throughthe sacrificial death of Christ, but the habitual and sacramental meansby which the Holy Spirit realised incorporation ( einleybung ) into thebody of Christ begun in the sacrament of Baptism, and actualised(albeit imperfectly) in the corporate life of the faithful” (165).

Thompson writes, “For Bucer, the visible corporate life of the church was the arena inwhich the invisible reality of the mystical body had begun to be actualisedvisibly . . . . the visible church, its ministryand sacraments were not a priori indispensable for salvation in Bucersscheme of things. In the second half of the 1520s sacraments were simplyvisible signs of invisible grace. However, from the early 1530s, Bucercame to regard them as the habitual and normal instruments by whichthe Holy Spirit was bringing about the first imperfect manifestationsof the kingdom. In this respect, . . . Bucer regarded thevisible church as the kingdoms indispensable servant” (283).

Articles by Peter J. Leithart