Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On this day in 1525 the Eucharist became a symbol (…or, at least Huldrych Zwingli claimed it was)

From Eric Sammons' The Divine Life:
"…or, at least Huldrych Zwingli claimed it was.

On August 17, 1525, Zwingli, a leader in the Swiss Protestant Reformation, published the book “Subsidium sive coronis de eucharistia” in which he defended his novel belief that the bread and wine of the Eucharist were only symbols. He also rejected the idea that the Eucharistic liturgy was a sacrifice, relegating it to merely a “remembrance.” The reverberations of this book cannot be underestimated: today, the vast majority of Protestants accept Zwingli’s view, often not even realizing that it was not the view of Luther or even Calvin.
Reducing the Eucharist to a mere symbol has had profound effects, but the greatest is the disunity that has prevailed in Western Christendom since the Reformation. As I wrote in Who is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew in the chapter entitled “Shepherd”:
[U]nity in the Church is not the result of theological conformity; rather, theological agreement is the result of a preexisting unity founded upon the Eucharist. It is not coincidental that the greatest case of disunity in the Church — the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation — included a denigration of the Eucharist to merely a symbol of Christ rather than His real Presence. No longer bound by the Eucharist, the leaders of the Reformation began a never-ending proliferation of new denominations and Christian bodies.
The Church is not united based on the desires and strengths of men, but because of the unifying grace of the Eucharist. Without it, our fallen race is guaranteed to be divided. Thus, those who are still united through the Eucharist should not look upon these sad events in a spirit of pride or triumphalism; it is not of man’s power that the Church remains united. Only — only — by the presence of the Shepherd in the Eucharist can it hope to remain one flock. Without Him as the source of unity, his followers will truly be a flock that is scattered.
Let us pray that one day all Christians will be united in the one Eucharistic Body of the Lord, which is no mere symbol, but is truly the Real Presence of Christ among us."

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