The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Lord's Supper
LORD'S SUPPER (Lat. Cæna Domini, Fr. La Sainte Cène, Ger. Abendmahl), one of the sacraments of the Christian religion, in the observance of which Christians commemorate the death of the Founder of their religion. It is so called because the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the rite when he took his last meal with his disciples. It has also the names of eucharist and communion, and is celebrated by all Christian bodies however much their views may differ as to its nature and efficacy, except the Quakers. It was instituted at the time of the Jewish passover, as we read in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the two former agreeing very closely in their accounts, while that of Luke has features of its own. A brief statement to the same effect is in 1 Cor. xi. There is no corresponding section in the fourth gospel, though in John vi Christ speaks of the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood. In all the churches founded by the Apostles the Lord's Supper was introduced. In the 1st and 2d centuries this rite was celebrated in connection with the agapæ or love-feast. After the 3d century, when the congregations became more numerous, the agapæ ceased, and the Lord's Supper was from thence celebrated separately in the churches, in such a way that all present could partake, with the exception of catechumens (that is, Christians not yet baptized) and unbelievers. These were obliged to withdraw when the celebration of the Lord's Supper commenced, because communion was considered as a mysterious act, which was to be withheld from profane eyes. The deacons carried the bread of life to those whom sickness or imprisonment had prevented from being present at the meeting of the congregation. It was always believed to possess a peculiar efficacy, and ideas of the awful and mystical were associated with it. From the first Christians ascribed supernatural power to the rite, and the consecrated bread and wine were regarded as more than mere bread and wine, and as having became, in some mystical way, the body and blood of our Saviour.
In the early Church there was no definite dogmatic formulation of the change undergone by the sacred elements, but in the 9th century, in consequence of the attacks of Berengarius (q.v.) on the doctrine of the Real Presence, the term transubstantiation, commonly ascribed to Paschasius Radbertus, first came into use to describe metaphysically the real and objective change of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. This term was adopted by the Council of Rome in 1079, and confirmed in 1215, in the Fourth Lateran Council, by Innocent III, and has ever since been employed by the Roman Catholic Church as the authentic expression of her faith in the doctrine of the Eucharist. The Council of Trent in the 16th century laid it down as of faith to confess the “change of the whole substance of the bread into the body, of the whole substance (substantiæ) of the wine into the blood [of Christ], only the appearances (species) of bread and wine remaining; which change the Catholic Church most fitly calls Transubstantiation.” The Roman Catholic Church holds that the Eucharist has been both a sacrament and a sacrifice from the beginning. This, she declares, is evident from Christ's words of institution, as narrated in the synoptic gospels, and from Saint Paul's words in his first Epistle to the Corinthians. And unbroken testimony from the Apostles through the Fathers of the Church, she further avers, bears ample evidence to her claim; besides this, she claims that her own witness as the duly divinely appointed guardian of the deposit of revelation and its infallible interpreter commissioned to teach all nations is sufficient seal to the truth of the doctrine. As a sacrament it is the true body and blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine to be partaken by the faithful as a means of grace and union with Christ; as a sacrifice it is the unbloody oblation of the body and blood of Christ by a duly appointed minister, that is, priest, by whom alone the elements can be consecrated. Such she declares has been the Christian teaching and practice from the beginning. The reception of the sacrament under both kinds, that is, under the forms of both bread and wine, was general until the Middle Ages, when communion under one kind, bread alone, began to be adopted, partly to avoid the danger of spilling the consecrated wine and partly to counteract a growing heresy that Christ was not received whole and entire under either kind alone. The Council of Constance, in the 15th century, made it universally obligatory to communicate under one kind to meet the heresy of Huss and Jerome of Prague.
The position taken up by the Protestant reformers in the 16th century was that the Church had deviated in the celebration of the Lord's Supper from the purpose of Christ and the example of the apostolic age. Both the German and Swiss reformers agreed in rejecting the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the Mass, maintaining that the Lord's Supper ought always to be celebrated before the whole congregation, and with the administration of both bread and wine. In explaining the words by which the supper was instituted, Luther and Zwinglius differed, and their different opinions on this subject formed the principal subject of the dissension between the Lutheran and Calvinistic churches. Luther took the words, “This is my body,” etc., in their literal sense, and maintained that the body and blood of Jesus Christ were united, in a mystical way, with the bread and wine, which, however, remain unchanged, so that the communicant receives, in, with and under the bread and wine, the real body and blood of the Redeemer. Zwinglius, on the other hand, understood the words in a figurative sense: that Jesus Christ meant to say, “The bread and the wine represent my body and my blood.” He maintained, therefore, that the bread and wine were mere symbols of the body and the blood of Christ, and that the Lord's Supper was a simple commemoration of the death of Christ, and a profession of belonging to his church, and this view was in substance adopted by the Socinians and Arminians. From this difference of opinion arose a violent dispute between Luther and Zwinglius, which in later times has been continued between the Lutheran and Calvinistic divines. The opinion advanced by Calvin, by which the spiritual presence of the body and blood of Christ is manifest in the communion, and by partaking of which the faithful receiver is brought into union with Christ, through the medium of the Holy Ghost, though it came nearer to the Lutheran doctrine than that of Zwinglius did, yet was essentially different, and therefore also met with a strong opposition from the strict adherents of Luther. The Calvinist position is known as Receptionist or virtualist. Melanchthon inclined to the Calvinistic notion, and so did many other Lutheran divines, who were called, by the opposite party, Philippists and Crypto-Calvinists. The formula concordiæ, or articles of religious peace, suppressed the Crypto-Calvinists in the greatest part of the Lutheran Church, and established the position of Luther; consequently there was a final separation of the Lutheran and Reformed or Calvinistic churches, but in recent times many Lutheran divines have inclined to the Calvinistic doctrine. The Greek Church has substantially held the doctrine of Transubstantiation in its whole extent. The Oriental Christians differ from the Western in using leavened bread in the Lord's Supper and in administering it to children. (See Greek Church).
It thus appears that the differences between the contending churches hinge on the mode in which the body and blood of Christ are present in the elements of bread and wine, for that they are in some way way present is admitted by them all. The majority of Protestant churches hold that presence means presence in efficacy, and will admit that it is “real” in the sense of being efficacious, though not in the sense of being corporeal. However, when they are called on to define efficacy they differ in this, that some mean by it a sacrificial, and others a mysterious supernatural efficacy, emanating from Christ's glorified body. The confessions of the Protestant churches were framed expressly to conciliate the Lutherans, and contain, in consequence, more of the mystical element than is consistent with the sentiments of the framers, as expressed in their writings. The 28th article of the Church of England, while repudiating Transubstantiation as “repugnant to the plain words of Scripture,” declares “that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.” It further declares that “the body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the supper only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the supper is faith.” But the High Church party in the Anglican Church makes an approach to the Roman position by belief in what is termed the “objective real presence.” The Westminster Confession, chap. xxix, s. 6 and 7, thus formulates the doctrine adopted by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which in the main agrees with that propounded by Calvin: “That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ's body and blood (commonly called Transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason, overthroweth the nature of the sacrament, and hath been and is the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.” The elevation, adoration and carrying about of the host, practised in the Greek and Roman Catholic churches, is thus spoken of in the 28th article of the Anglican Church: “The sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.” While the Roman Catholic Church makes its communicants receive the consecrated wafer with the mouth from the hands of the priest, the Protestant churches put the bread and the chalice into the hands of the communicant.
In the Greek and Roman Catholic churches the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered daily; in the Anglican Church the practice varies, the High Church ideal being a daily celebration of Holy Communion. It was formerly the custom in the Scottish Presbyterian Church to observe the rite once a year; but it is now more frequently administered, generally four times a year.
Bibliography.— Only a partial and fragmentary list can be included here: Adamson, R. W., ‘Christian Doctrine of the Lord's Supper’ (Edinburgh 1905); Armstrong, ‘Sacraments of the New Testament’ (New York 1880); Bridgett, T. E., ‘History of the Holy Eucharist in England’ (London 1908); Brightman, ‘The Eucharistic Sacrifice’ (ib. 1890); Dimock, N., ‘On Eucharistic Worship in the English Church’ (ib. 1911); ‘Papers on the Doctrine of the English Church Concerning the Eucharistic Presence’ (2 vols., ib. 1911); Frankland, W. B., ‘The Early Eucharist’ (Cambridge 1902); Gardner, P., ‘Origin of the Lord's Supper’ (London 1893); Gore, C., ‘The Body of Christ’ (ib. 1901); Groton, W. M., ‘Christian Eucharist and the Pagan Cults’ (New York 1914); Harnack, ‘History of Dogma’ (Eng. trans., London 1894-99); Lambert, J. C., ‘The Sacraments in the New Testament’ (Edinburgh 1905); Mortimer, A. G., ‘Catholic Faith and Practice’ (Philadelphia 1898); Moule, ‘The Supper of the Lord’ (London 1889); Perowne, J. J. S., ‘The Doctrine of the Lord's Supper’ (London 1887); Pusey, E. B., ‘The Doctrine of the Real Presence as contained in the Fathers’ (Oxford 1870); Sanday, W., ‘Priesthood and Sacrifice’ (London 1900); Stone, D., ‘History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist’ (ib. 1909); Wilberforce, R. I., ‘The Doctrine of the Eucharist’ (ib. 1854); Wiseman, Cardinal, ‘Lectures on the Real Presence’ (Dublin 1852); and the article in the ‘Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics.’