Part 6: The Sacrament of the Altar

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The Small Catechism

by Dr. Martin Luther
As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.

The Nature of the Sacrament of the Altar

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
The Sacrament of the Altar is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself, for us Christians to eat and to drink.
Where is this written?
The holy evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke, together with St. Paul, write thus: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way also He took the cup after supper, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”

The Benefit of the Sacrament of the Altar

What benefit do we receive from such eating and drinking?
The benefit which we receive from such eating and drinking is shown us by these words: “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins,” namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

The Power of the Sacrament of the Altar

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?
It is not the eating and drinking that does this, but the words here written: “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” These words, along with the eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament; and whoever believes these words has exactly what they say, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

The Proper Reception of the Sacrament of the Altar

Who then receives this Sacrament worthily?
Fasting and bodily preparation are indeed a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, “Given and shed for you for the remis­sion of sins.” But he who does not believe these words, or doubts them, is unworthy and unprepared; for the words “for you” require truly believing hearts.

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