Concerning the personal union of the two natures in Christ, the real communication of attributes, Christ’s ascension into heaven, and his being seated at the right hand of God the Father.
By which the true presence of Christ’s body and blood in the supper is explained and proven.
By Johannes Brenz
Johannes Brenz S.D. to the pious reader:
In a piece by which I have undertaken to defend the confession of the most illustrious prince and lord, Duke Christoph, Duke of Wuerttemberg and Teck and Earl of Montbeliard, my most merciful lord, I have written, to explain the consecration of the Eucharist, that wherever the Son of God, the true and eternal God, is, there also is the Son of Man, assumed by God in unity of person. And so this statement is taken by some as also if I were teaching that Christ’s body spreads out and extends in every place in a crass and bodily way. Therefore my friends have thought that I should explain this a little more fully. Certainly I appeared to have serious reasons why I should decline this kind of work, because nothing can be said piously or cautiously enough that the slanderers will fear to turn it into calumny. Also other writings exist in which that personal (which they call hypostatic) and extraordinary union of deity and humanity in Christ, and Christ being seated at the right hand of God the Father are so brilliantly explained and illustrated that I have no idea to whom they were not satisfactory, and such a person will have to remain self-condemned. But they proceeded to insist and urge in such a way that I preferred to write something concerning their opinion and authority according to my ability than to scornfully resist. And so I have briefly undertaken those chapters concerning the inseparable and indivisible union of deity and humanity in Christ, concerning Christ’s ascension into heaven, and concerning his being seated at the right hand of God the Father, and it must be clearly explained, as far as possible, in order that I may restore to the Church the understanding of the Son of God, that I have neither invented nor am I following a new doctrine. And it must be clearly explained so that I may set forth the reasons why the doctrine concerning the true presence of Christ’s body and blood in his Supper must be firmly asserted and forever retained.
And the matter is truly astonishing because those who most of all wish to see spiritual things are not able to shake their carnal notions about geometric dimensions in such great mysteries as the hypostatic union and the Lord’s Supper. They have fashioned the new and marvelous term “ubiquity” so that they may that much more easily accuse us of being ignorant and unaware of things and also so that they may convince others that we have invented this new and marvelous doctrine and stretched out and geometrically extended Christ’s body into every place as if it were leather. And indeed if our enemies were to curse us, to use the words of the Psalms, we would have endured it, in if those who hate us would have spoken absurd things about us, we would have perhaps cut ourselves off from them. But now this is most serious because we find that those whom we hoped would be allies and helpers in repelling a common enemy are raging against us with more hate and venom than they ever had against the enemies.
In explaining the understanding of the heaven in which Christ the Son of God is seated at the right hand of his Father they seem to conclude that the majesty of Christ is so limited that he is stuck to only the outside of heaven and that he is not truly in heaven itself if he is in the Supper or also if his deity is everywhere. They also do not seem to be able to raise their minds higher than Aristotelian axioms:
Having been instructed and inebriated with these and other similar axioms of Physics, how can you truly persuade yourself that the Son of God took and united to himself a man, which consists of a rational soul and body, into an indissolvable and permanently inseparable unity of person? Therefore I desire to state my opinion about this matter in the Church of the Son of God, or rather, to more fully explain a previous statement which was rashly spit upon by some. And I shall do this with testimonies, not those produced by human reason, but those handed down divinely, to which also many people of both great and small authority in the Church have ascribed themselves by the record of their writings. I do not doubt that if anyone who is not blinded by a factitious zeal but is instead endowed with true piety weighs them up, he will understand that we are teaching nothing entirely new, but only developing and explaining according to the true opinion of the Holy Spirit as clearly as we are able those things which the universal Church has been reciting up until now in the creed of its religion, that the Word became flesh. He ascended into heaven and even above all heavens, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Farewell.
CONCERNING THE LORD’S SUPPER
In disputes about the presence of Christ’s body and blood in his Supper, there is agreement among factions about the truth of these words of Christ: “This is my body,” and, “This is my blood.” Those of us on both sides confess that these words of Christ are very much true, that they are in the Supper for the consecration of the bread and wine and distribution of the body and blood of Christ, and that they are to be recited in order to proclaim his death, so that we through this faithfulness may be partakers of every blessing which the Son of God has obtained for us from the Father through his death and blood. But there is no agreement among factions about the meaning of these words. For we keep the flow (which they call the letter) of the words of Christ and believe that when Christ with his own words presented the disciples the bread and the wine, he also presented them his own true body for them to eat and his own true blood for them to drink, present not only by mental thought or power, but also in a real and substantial way, not by transubstantiation as the papists dream nor locally as some falsely accuse us of thinking. But some are of the opinion that, while Christ’s body and blood are certainly received in the Supper, the receiving is figurative and occurs through faith. They say that his body and blood are themselves not truly present in the Supper in a real and substantial way but rather at the present time are only in heaven. And they explain this opinion of theirs by using as an example the sun and its rays. Just as the sun is in heaven with respect to the mass of its body and yet is on earth with respect to it rays, so also they believe the humanity of Christ is only in heaven, but his deity is present everywhere, including in the supper, but apart from his humanity. And they gather many arguments by which they try to prove their opinion and refute ours.
They say that our opinion would contradict the nature of a human body, because it is certainly not able to be simultaneously in heaven and in the Supper, and in however many places the Lord’s Supper is being celebrated, as the ancient tragedy says, “A name can be in many places, but not a body.”3 And so they are not afraid to accuse us of making Christ multi-bodied, multi-locational, and omnilocational. They call us Capernaitans,4 Carnivores, Bloodsuckers, Thyestes5, Everywhere-ists6, Everyplace-ists, Ubiquitists, Omnilocationists, Bread-worshippers, and Impanators of God, and they hurl at us many other horrible nicknames of this type.
They say that our opinion would contradict the articles of faith that say, “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.” And they heap up all the passages of scripture and the words of the ancient fathers which testify that Christ is in heaven.
They say that it is not possible that an unworthy person could chew on the body of Christ.
And there are many other things which they gather to support their opinion. But we will at present only deal with those which we have just enumerated, because also in these (as it certainly seems to me) the entire controversy is clearly found, and if these have been explained the others will be easily cleared up: The ones such as “The flesh profits nothing,” “He has risen and is not here,” and, “John is Elijah,” and also many others have now already been so thoroughly explained and illustrated that not even our adversaries make any attempt to defend them anymore.
We were indeed content all along with the simple interpretation of Christ’s words and with the knowledge of God’s will and omnipotence, but what shall we do? Adversaries have dragged us into these disputes and are still detaining us in them. Therefore it is necessary that the Church of the Son of God be rightly and piously educated about these things.
First of all, they say that Christ took on a human body just like ours, except that it was without sin. But because it is the nature of our bodies to be in only one place, and it is impossible for one of our bodies to be in many places at the same time, it would seem to follow by necessity that Christ’s body is also in only one place and it is impossible for it to simultaneously be in the many places in which his Supper is celebrated. They also add that there certainly is a union of the two natures, namely the divine and human, but that each keeps its own properties. They cite the words of Augustine, “Christ’s divinity must be taught in such a way that we do not take away the truth of his body.”
To these things it can be responded very briefly and truly, that even if it is not possible for a human body to be in many places at the same time by its own nature and ability, it is however possible by the nature and power of God. For who can prescribe God’s manner of presence? Who can place a limit on his power? And it can be replied that just as Christ did in this world indeed suffer in the flesh both cross and death, not by necessity but by will, so also he was in this world in one place according to the flesh, not because of some compelling necessity, but because of his voluntary will. He assented to it. I know not even the papists themselves have ever taught that the body of Christ is in the bread of the Supper in a local and circumscriptive way.7 And our teachers have often testified with elegant words that they are in no way assigning a local space to the presence of Christ’s body in the bread. Therefore we are unjustly accused in the distribution of the Lord’s Supper of dragging the body of Christ from heaven and including it in the bread locally or of making Christ multi-bodied and multi-locational.
But because they object against us with the difference of the two natures in Christ, which we ourselves without doubt certainly believe, confess, and defend, this will be more highly investigated and more diligently weighed.
It is evident and very true that God sent his Son into this world to redeem the human race from the tyranny of Satan. This was preached by the Prophets and explained by the Apostles. “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end’” (Luke 1:30-33). And elsewhere, “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). And again, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And Paul writes, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God --- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:1-4). And again, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
The majority of us have called this sending of the Son of God into human flesh the incarnation and have interpreted it in this way: that deity and humanity are certainly very different natures or substances (for one is from eternity and the creator of all things but the other is created, and the one is spirit but the other is physical) and they cannot be altered or changed into each other, but in Christ they are conjoined, or rather united, in such a way that they by all means constitute one person never to be separated in eternity. Therefore because there are in one eternal and very simple Godhead three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, this sending of the Son of God into this world must be understood in this way, that not the first person, which is the Father, and not the third person, which is the Holy Spirit, but only the second person, which is the Son, took on human nature and substance (namely a human body and rational soul) and united this substance to himself in such a way that they are not two different persons, but remain only one person. And yet the divine substance is not changed into human, and each one has its own properties. However these two substances are joined into one person in Christ in such a way that they can never be divided from each other. The opinion of our ancestors concerning this must be listened to.
The Council of Ephesus and Cyril:
If anyone divides the substances in the one Christ after their unity, connecting them only by a bond which is according to merit, authority, or power, and not rather by an assembly according to natural unity, let him be eternally condemned.
The Council of Chalcedon, around the 450th year of Christ:
We confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed begotten of the Father before time according to his deity. But in these last days because of our salvation this same Jesus was according to his human nature born from the virgin Mary. It must be recognized that it is one and the same Christ, the only-begotten Son and Lord, in two inconfusable, unchangeable, indivisible, and inseparable natures. And the essence of his natures never suffered because of this union, but rather as the sound properties of each nature come together into one person and existence he is not partitioned or divided into two persons, nor disjoined, but is one and the same only-begotten Son.
What need is there for more? In Athanasius and the other ancient writers there is this clear analogy: “Just as the rational soul and flesh are one human being, so God and man are one Christ.” By this analogy, he means that just as in man, for as long as he lives and remains a human being, his flesh and soul cannot be separated, so also in Christ God and man cannot be torn from each other.
And Leo in his 81st Epistle, “Jesus Christ our Lord is one, and consists of true deity and true humanity in this wholly one person, and it is not possible to separate with any division the solidity of this union.”
And again, “It makes no difference by which substance Christ is called, for, since the unity of person remains inseparable, he is one and the same and completely the Son of Man because of his flesh and completely the Son of God because of his one deity with the Father.
And a little earlier, “Although from that beginning by which the Word became flesh in the virgin’s womb, no division ever existed between his divine and human substances, and throughout his entire bodily growth at all times his actions were the actions of one person, we nonetheless do not take these things which are made inseparable and confuse them by mixing them together.”
I could quote many other testimonies of the ancient writers by which it would be proven that the divine and human natures or substances in Christ are connected into one person in such a way that no creature, not even death itself, could ever divide or separate them from each other. But because I do not think that there are any at this time who admit that they divide the two natures on Christ, I will not go on quoting the testimonies of the church fathers any longer.
So what comes next? What shall we say? Isn’t it clear that because deity and humanity are inseparably and indivisibly joined together in the one person of Christ it is necessary that wherever God is, there also is the humanity of Christ? Unless these two natures always remain so united that one is never without the other it is certainly not possible that Christ remains one person. For if the deity of Christ is somewhere else without his humanity, then they will be two persons, not one. Therefore why is it that some people say the person of Christ does not have his humanity united with him everywhere?8 Indeed they strongly affirm this, but with what reasons? And how does this agree with the fact that the universal Church has always thought that the two natures are joined together in the one person of Christ in such a way that they cannot be separated, and if they are at all separated it is only for understanding? But this is not a discourse concerning the operation, but rather the union of natures in the person of Christ. We know that the person of Christ works some things by his divine nature and other things by his human nature. Nevertheless these two natures, no matter how many different properties and operations they may have, are perpetually joined together and united in the one person of Christ in such a way that they can never be separated. It will not bother me to quote in this place the testimony of Gelasius in his book concerning the two natures in Christ against Eutyches and Nestorius. “Our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same and he who is fully God is man and he who is fully man is God. Whatever is human, God as a man makes his own and whatever is divine, a man as God has. However, in order that this sacrament may remain and not be in any part dissolve, he who is fully man remains what God is such that he who is fully God remains what a man is. If there were to be anything missing or any deviation from either divinity or humanity, then would follow the unspeakable termination of the sacrament and something so terrible would happen that you would have to flee at the sight or sound of it: He now ceases to be God if only his humanity persists there and not also his deity, or consequently God has ceased to be a man if only his divinity remains there and not also his humanity united to it.” He says that it is such a horrible a thing to say and hear that only his divinity is there and his humanity also does not remain united that it must be fled. And so by what front do they dare to say that Christ’s person does not have his humanity united to it everywhere? Certainly Christ’s deity and humanity are one inseparable person. How this is so is beyond words. But it cannot be denied that the two are inseparably united, and everywhere the one is, there is the other one also, and there is not any place or spatial distance which is able to separate them. But they are accustomed to responding that this is true when one of them which are so united does not exceed the other or is greater than the other in extent, as if indeed speculations must provide a geometric place for the larger excess and the greater extent and as if the immensity of the one and the dimensions of the other are able to destroy this ineffable and inseparable union, no other example of which exists in the natural universe. But they do not adduce us to highest admiration, because through faith we know with certainty that the Son of God assumed the Son of Man into the same person and adorned him with all his majesty, and raised him to the right hand of God the Father so that just as the Son of God was of immense power from the beginning, in the same way now the Son of Man, after he was assumed into a unity of person, is of the same majesty and personally governs all things. But let’s look at the definition of person. A person, they say, is an indivisible substance of a rational nature. If a person is an indivisible substance, how does Christ’s divinity, wherever it is, not have united with it its humanity which he assumed into a unity of person?
Therefore let us know that in regard to Christ’s person the reason of man must not be consulted, but rather the opinion of the Holy Spirit which testifies that the Word became flesh, and let us know that the two natures which are personally, hypostatically, and therefore inseparably united in Christ must not be contradicted in any way. Human intellect does not grasp this mystery through its reason, but faith grasps it through the Holy Spirit.
But again they object that only the one is infinite and immense, saying that if Christ’s humanity is always there wherever his deity is, wouldn’t there be two who are infinite and two who are immense? That is certainly how human wisdom babbles. To this also we can respond from philosophy that although Christ’s humanity is everywhere in all places, nevertheless it is not infinite in the same way. For neither places nor the world itself, by which all places are defined, are infinite. And if the infinite is to be spoken of properly, it is beneficial to recount the words of Gregory of Nazianzus: “The infinite is considered in two ways, both according to beginning and according to end, for whatever surpasses these and is not confined within them is infinite.”9 Therefore although after the union the humanity of Christ is now wherever his deity was, nevertheless it does not for this reason lack a beginning like God, and therefore is not, in this sense, infinite. But let us hear what the wisdom of God’s Word teaches. For deity and humanity in Christ are not two persons, but only one person, and there are not two Christ’s, but only one Christ. Therefore there is only one who is infinite and one who is immense. But if a unity of person is not to be mentioned but instead only a difference of substances, what, I pray, prevents that which belong to one substance in and of itself to belong to another substance through its accidents, as the logicians say? The saying about Christ is tried and true that whatever belongs to the Son of God through nature belongs to the Son of Man through a supernatural gift. Isn’t God alone of infinite power, infinite wisdom, infinite goodness, and infinite righteousness? And yet when the Word became flesh, the Word became united to the flesh in such a way that it poured out all the majesty of his deity into it, as was shown a little earlier. Paul says, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19). And again: “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). And again: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). What then? Will we say that there are two who are infinite, powerful, wise, good, and righteous? Certainly the saying is true concerning nature that certainly only one is infinitely powerful, wise, good, and righteous, namely, God himself. But if we are talking about a supernatural gift, it is truly possible that the Son of God poured out all his majesty into that Son of Man, which he assumed into a unity of person by a hypostatic union from his impenetrable counsel and free mercy, so that what he is in and of himself and by nature, that Son of Man may also be through his accidents, that is, by a foreign benefice and supernatural gift because of the hypostatic union. Paul writes about the majesty of Christ, saying, “[God] seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:20-21). It is certain that he raised the Son of Man into infinite power, wisdom, goodness, and righteousness. But if the Son of Man became infinite and immense in these things in his own way, how did the Son of God not also raise him to that infiniteness and immensity by which he fills all things both above and below in a heavenly manner?
But this, you say, contradicts the nature of a human body. And Augustine says, “Get rid of the local space for bodies and they will be nowhere and because they will be nowhere, the bodies will not exist.”10 I am not ignorant of the fact that those things which are said about the majesty of Christ to which the Son of Man was raised by the Son of God seem most absurd and simply impossible to human reason. But the hypostatic union of two very different natures in the person of Christ is handed down in the Holy Scripture by the Holy Spirit for us to know and believe. And although this union is an absurdity of absurdities, it is necessary that human intellect yield to it and render itself captive in obedience to the Word of God. Therefore it is not surprising that from that one very great absurdity many other absurdities, according to human intellect, follow. If one absurdity is ceded, the rest will follow. Augustine warns correctly in this part, saying, “Brothers, let us believe even if the arguments of the philosophers are difficult for us to solve. Let us hold to that which is demonstrated in the Lord without difficulty. Let them chatter; let us believe.’”11 And elsewhere he says, “Faith ought to mock wicked argumentations even if reason cannot refute them.”12 Therefore let us leave the philosophers to their chatter and let us laugh at their argumentations of physics and geometry which they are accustomed to reciting in order to refute and disprove that highest mystery of the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ. And yet so that we do not seem to laugh randomly or contradict ourselves, that is, with others in our profession, we will explain our opinion and how it compares to theirs.
For, when they make objections against us using the difference of natures in Christ and saying that neither the divine nature was changed into human, nor the human nature into divine, likewise that each nature retains its own qualities, they seem to attack us by our theology not by their philosophy. If this were not the case, this issue would take a long time for us to discuss at present.
For first, when it is said that the divine nature of Christ is not changed into human nature, nor the human nature into divine nature, the term “nature” must be correctly understood. For in some cases by this word the very substance of the thing is meant and in other cases the thing’s properties and accidents. Therefore when it is said that in the one person of Christ there are two different natures which are not changed into each other and are not to be confused or mixed together, the word “nature” must be understood as the very substance of the thing, as in the person of Christ there is a divine substance which is spirit, uncreated and from eternity, and also a human substance which is bodily and not from eternity, but was created. Therefore in the hypostatic union of Christ neither is deity, which is spirit, uncreated, and from eternity, ever changed into humanity, which is a bodily and created substance, nor is humanity ever changed into deity, but each substance in the person of Christ remains unviolated and unchanged. But if the word “nature” is understood as the thing’s properties or accidents, it is no secret that deity is the simplest thing and it has no accidents. And for this reason it is immutable and impassible. But humanity is a composite thing and subject to various accidents which both do not change the thing’s substance and, as the logicians say, are able to come and go without corrupting the subject. Therefore although human substance is subject to suffering and death, this property does not cling to man such that if it is changed the substance of man is also changed. But it is able to come (for Christ has suffered and died in his flesh and the rest of men are subject to suffering and death) and go (for Christ escaped suffering and death in his resurrection and the rest of men will finally become impassible and immortal). Nevertheless just as Christ did after the resurrection, so also will the rest of men retain true and perfect human substance in their resurrection. But if this changing of properties or accidents does not change the thing’s substance, how is it not also possible for the substance of a body to remain unchanged even if it is not somewhere in a local sense, since being in a place is not the substance of the body but is only an accidental property of the substance? But if you say that being in a place is the kind of property from which the body cannot be separated, let us pretend for the moment that this is true in its own way. It still cannot be denied that what is impossible for nature is not only possible but also easy for divine power and industry. And why is that? Isn’t heaven, the greatest of all bodies, although it contains all places within it, still itself not in any place, seeing as how even Aristotle defines heaven by saying that there is neither a place, nor a vacuum, nor a time beyond heaven?13
Then, because a human body is assigned to Christ, you must not simply consider what properties and accidents a human body has in and of itself in this world and on behalf of the condition of this world (for it is quite clear that his body is locally and circumscriptively in a place, a thing which itself is attested), but most of all you must consider that that body of Christ is united with the Son of God by an inseparable hypostatic, or personal, union so that everywhere the Son of God is, there also is his body, so that the unity of person is not torn by Christ’s deity being somewhere where his humanity is not. And so although apart from Christ it is necessary that human nature be in one place in accordance with the laws of physics, as Augustine says, Christ undertook at the time of his ministry and life on this world human weaknesses (because of sin), and he was circumscriptively with his body in a place on behalf of the condition of this world. Yet at the same time the hypostatic union was not dissolved, so that Christ did not also have with him his humanity everywhere his deity was. And this was not in a local but a repletive way, as the ancients have said from that prophetic saying “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24). Therefore whatever glory Christ’s body either had in this world or now has in the other world, it does not have from the nature of its humanity in and of itself, but from the nature of its deity, with which Christ’s body is inseparably united with a hypostatic or personal union.
Furthermore because we bind together or unite Christ’s humanity to his deity in such a way that wherever his deity is, there he has with him his humanity, we do not assign to Christ many different bodies, nor do we assign to his body a local extension or diffusion, but we raise him beyond this bodily world, above every creature and place, and we place him in heavenly majesty in accordance with the nature of the hypostatic union. Although he concealed it at the time of his flesh in this world, or as Paul says, emptied himself of it, nevertheless he was never lacking it. Cyril says, “The power which he says was given to him after the resurrection he also had before the resurrection.”14 And so he did not have two or three or four or many bodies, one in Jerusalem when he preached in the temple or hung on the cross, another in the city of Rome, another in Athens, another in heaven, but one and the same body, which was visibly and locally in Jerusalem and was invisibly and illocally with his deity everywhere which it was, beyond all places. For these places which are different in our human eyes and distant from each other are not so many, so much, or of such a kind in the eyes of divine majesty. But just as all times are a moment to him, so also all places are one place to him, indeed, to him they are not even a very small spot, or smaller, if anything more minute is able to be said. For this reason when we bind Christ’s humanity to his deity we do not extend or diffuse his body in a corporeal or local way, but rather we ascribe to it that majesty which human reason is indeed not able to comprehend but which ought to be given it because of the hypostatic union and which he reveals not so much in miracles as in his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven, and his being seated at the right hand of the Father.
Furthermore from this wondrous and ineffable union arises that famous term in church writers: “the communication of attributes.” For there cannot be any true communication between the divine nature and the human nature in Christ unless these two natures are inseparably united and shared in Christ. But before we speak about the matter itself, let us speak about terminology. For because schools call the peculiarities of a particular language, for example, Greek or German, “idioms,” many think that the communication of attributes between Christ’s divine and human natures is to be understood as a mere communication of the qualities of terminology, and not of qualities of the thing.15 And the ancients certainly taught correctly, as far as I can judge, concerning the communication of attributes.
But the scholastics and some more recent men, when they say that the person of Christ does not have its humanity united with it everywhere, seem to affirm that there is only a verbal and not a real communication in Christ, so that Christ certainly speaks with the words of God but is not to be revered as God, that is, in Christ divinity and humanity are not everywhere, really, and personally united. They would eventually make Christ just a man, not God in a true sense but only nominally. Christ as God would not truly suffer for our sins but only as a figure of speech. But in this matter we understand through “communication of attributes” not only a communication of terminology but also of the properties of the things. So when we say about Christ through a communication of attributes that God suffered and died, it is not our opinion that God the Word is only said to suffer and die as a figure of speech. However the thing itself does not pertain to God in an absolute sense, but rather God, although by nature he cannot suffer or die, he makes the passion and death of Christ common to himself in no way other than that because of the hypostatic union he personally draws near to suffering and death, such that the result is as if God himself suffered and died. “And so God the Word suffered and died,” as Cyril says, “impassibly and immortally, so that it is not said with empty speech that he suffered and died, but also he truly and actually suffered and died, certainly not according to the nature of his deity but according to the nature of his humanity, to which it was hypostatically, personally, and inseparably united.” Cyril says again, “For the passion belongs to the dispensation, as the Word certainly declared his own the things which properly belong to his flesh because of the indescribable union. But he remained beyond suffering as far as pertains to his own nature, for God is impassible. And this is no surprise since we see that even the soul of a man, if his body has suffered anything, certainly remains beyond the suffering as far as pertains to its own nature. Yet it is not understood to be beyond suffering because the body which suffers is its own.”16
So also the attributes of God the Word are preached about the flesh of Christ not only with empty words but also truly and in fact. Only deity is life-giving and yet Christ’s flesh is also life-giving and has life-giving power, certainly not according to the flesh’s own nature but according to the nature of the deity to which it is personally united. But from wherever he has this power he certainly has it. Likewise only deity is to be worshipped, and yet Christ’s flesh is also to be worshipped and the majesty of adoration is deservedly brought to it, certainly not considered as human flesh alone without deity, but because it is hypostatically and personally, and therefore inseparably united with deity. Let us hear some testimonies of the ancients about this communication of attributes, that is, properties.
Basil on the Holy Nativity of Christ:
How is there deity in flesh? In the same way that fire is in iron not by motion but by distribution. For fire does not run onto the iron but remaining in its place distributes its own quality.
And a little later:
How, therefore, was God the Word not filled by bodily feebleness? Let us say that it happened in the same way that fire does not adopt the properties of iron. Iron is black and cold and yet when purified in fire iron puts on the form of fire. It itself is illuminated and glows; it does not blacken fire. It itself is inflamed; it does not make the flame cold. This is also really how the Lord’s human flesh, itself being made a partaker of deity, did not give to the deity its own characteristic weakness.
Here Basil is not of the opinion that the deity in Christ did not take for itself the weakness characteristic of the flesh, but that it was not changed by the weakness of the flesh. And yet just as in iron purified in fire, the fire claims the blackness and coldness of iron, not that it itself becomes black and cold but that it claims the blackness and coldness of iron, and inflames and illuminates the iron, so in the same way the deity united in Christ took on the suffering and death of his humanity, not that it might suffer and die in itself, but that it may absorb his humanity’s suffering and death and adorn his humanity with heavenly majesty.
Cyril says on John:
Not entirely ignorantly do you deny that the flesh gives life. For if the flesh is understood by itself, it is able to make absolutely nothing alive, because it indeed lacks the ability to give life. But if you would examine the mystery of the incarnation with laudable care and recognize the one who is dwelling in the flesh, although the inner flesh cannot in and of itself give life, nevertheless you would believe that it has been made to give life. For since the flesh is bound with the life-giving Word, the entire thing has been made life-giving.
And a little later:
Although the nature of flesh, as flesh is, is not able to give life, yet it does so because it undertakes the entire operation of the Word.
If honey, because it is naturally sweet, makes sweet those things into which it is mixed, wouldn’t it be stupid to think that the life-giving nature of the Word, its power to give life, had not been given to the man in which he dwells.
Likewise concerning the Incarnation of the Word, chapter 7:
Just as with someone else the body is of a nature beyond the soul, nevertheless from both is brought about and called one man, so also from the complete subsistence of God the Word and from complete humanity is one Christ. Likewise in him there is at the same time God and man, and God the Word indeed claims as his those things which are properties of the flesh because the body is his own and not someone else’s. But as it were he makes common with his flesh the operations of his divine majesty so that it also can make the dead alive and the sick healthy.”
And in chapter 8:
But let us, with coal as our illustration, behold that God the Word was certainly bound to his humanity. But he did not cast aside what it was but rather he transformed the assumed nature into his glory and operation. For it is just as when fire, having impressed itself upon coal and penetrating into it, certainly obtains it, and although the wood does not cease to be, yet the fire transfers all its strength and appearance and takes itself into the coal and it is now considered together with it as one thing. Understand the same thing also about Christ. For God, having been bound to humanity in an inestimable way, indeed kept it in him as it was, and he himself remained as he was. Nevertheless once he was bound, he is now deemed as one with it, making those things which are its his own, but also himself conferring upon it the operation of his own nature.
And if anyone is able to jest about or attack this metaphor of Cyril about coal, as also Basil’s about iron purified in fire, which we recounted above, saying that perhaps more appropriate would be a metaphor about fire purifying gold than purifying iron or burning coal, yet it is not unknown how far such metaphors are applied to explaining this communication of attributes and how much the reveal and to what extent they are effective. For they are not recalled by us for any other use than to demonstrate at least in some way that indescribable union of God and man in the person of Christ from which the communication of attributes arises.
And Chapter 2:
Because he wanted to serve what was perishing, God the Word grafted himself into that which he was not so that the nature of man might also become what it was not. This nature of man shone through his union to the honor of divine majesty and was elevated beyond its nature rather that casting the unchangeable God below its nature.
Cyril to Successus:
It is from this which I think the most blessed Paul says we became acquainted with Christ according to the flesh, but we did not yet recognize him. For as I, said, the appearance of God’s own body transcends all human things.
And a little later:
And for this reason we say that Christ’s body is indeed divine, because it is the body of God, and we confess that it has been made to shine with ineffable glory, that it is incorruptible, that it is already holy, and that it gives life.
Augustine concerning the words of the apostle, sermon 14:
Christ descended, and that same Son of Man, who is the Son of God seated in heaven, walks on the earth. He was in heaven because Christ is everywhere, and we have proven that that same Christ, both Son of God and Son of Man, who because of the unity of person is the Son of God on earth, is, because of that same unity of person, the Son of Man in heaven.
I now adore the Lord’s flesh, indeed, the complete humanity in Christ, because I confess that it has been undertaken by his divinity and united to his deity so that they are not two separate things but one and the same God and man, the Son of God. Accordingly if you separate the man from God, I will never believe in him nor serve him, just as if someone finds a purple robe or a kingly diadem lying there, he won’t try to worship them, will he? But when a king has put them on, if someone refuses to worship them with the king he runs the risk of dying. So also if someone refuses to worship in our Lord Christ his humanity, which is not alone or bare but rather is united to his divinity, namely, to worship the one Son, true God and true man, he will die eternally.
From these and other testimonies of this kind, with which the books of the ecclesiastical writers are full, it is plainly known how great the union of the two natures in Christ is. For although the natures or substances are most different from each other and they each have their own different attributes or properties, yet these substances are also joined by so great a union that they are one inseparable hypostasis, that is, suppositum or person, and their properties are communicated to the substances with so great a familiarity that whatever is the property of one nature the other nature makes common to itself, as the ancients explained.
Therefore let us now weigh up how the majesty of Christ’s humanity is visible. It has just been said that Christ’s humanity not only gives life, but also must be worshipped, and this because of the hypostatic unity of person. But there is no less majesty in giving life and in being worthy of worship than there is in filling all things. For this reason, although being everywhere and filling all things are a property of only the divine nature in Christ, yet he shares this property with his humanity which he assumed into the same person. And it is extraordinary that although you do not shrink from saying that Christ’s humanity is truly life-giving and worthy of worship because of the fact that it is hypostatically bound to his divinity, yet you shrink from saying that his humanity fills all things. And yet it is always the same unity of person. For now it is chiefly discussed not from where Christ’s humanity has the majesty of filling all things but whether it has it at all. For it is clear that just as his humanity by itself has neither the power of giving life nor ought it to be worshipped, but has this majesty from the hypostatic union with the deity, in the same way his humanity by itself, in accordance with its own nature, does not fill all things but has this majesty from the personal union with the deity, so that it fills all things, not from the nature of humanity but from the nature of divinity. And so although the humanity of Christ does not have this majesty from itself and from its own nature, nevertheless it truly does have it because of the hypostatic unity of person. And because the flesh of the Word is worshiped with divine worship, as they say, not in as much as it is human flesh, but in as much as it is assumed flesh, why in the same way would it not be rightly said that Christ’s body fills all things not in as much as it is a human body but in as much as it is an assumed body? Therefore when we say that Christ’s humanity is united to his divinity everywhere, first of all, we do not stretch Christ’s humanity by a local spreading just as his divinity itself is not locally spread, as has already been said. Next, we do not change humanity into deity. Moreover, we do not deny a difference in the properties of each nature. But with what words we can we explain that ineffable union by which God and man are joined in the one person of Christ in such a way that they cannot be separated from each other by any local space. But at the same time the properties of each nature are left alone, but those properties which the one nature in Christ shares with the other are left in such a way that the union of these natures in one person is not at all torn apart, but rather upheld and established.
I am aware that some of the ancients rejected the expression “Christ’s humanity is everywhere.” And I will not myself approve of it if by this term “everywhere” locality is meant. Therefore, for the sake of teaching, let us establish a three-fold ubiquity (for, as I said before, they are pleased to disgrace, without any discretion, a very tried and true fact with a new and monstrous term) namely, local, repletive, and personal. And indeed there is nothing, neither spiritual nor corporeal, which is everywhere, with respect to local ubiquity. But God alone is everywhere by his own nature, with respect to repletive ubiquity. And after the Son of God united humanity to himself, it follows by necessity that this humanity which was assumed by the Son of God into a unity of person is everywhere, with respect to personal ubiquity. Therefore the term “everywhere” must be understood correctly. For according to the typical use it includes a locality spread out and stretched from all sides. But in the expression “Christ’s humanity is everywhere” this term “everywhere” does not mean any locality, for deity itself is not locally spread out and stretched either. How therefore would we be saying that the humanity united to the deity is locally spread out and stretched? But this term “everywhere” in some way expresses that which Paul says, “[He] ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe” (Ephesians 4:10) and, “[He] seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule, etc.” (Ephesians 1:20-21). And so if the discussion is about the geometric space of places, the humanity of Christ is not everywhere. And this is what those ecclesiastical writers who deny that Christ’s body is everywhere wish to express. And rightly Gregory says, “Christ is not here by presence of the flesh (namely, visibly and locally) but nevertheless he is never absent by presence of his majesty.”17 But if the discussion is about the celestial manner of filling all things surely if you concede the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ you must admit that Christ’s humanity fills all things. Otherwise you affirm the unity of person with words but in fact you dissolve it and make two persons, one who is one place with his humanity, and the other who is somewhere else apart from his humanity.
Indeed each nature, the divine and the human in Christ, retains its own properties, but in such a way that the person of Christ is not divided and everywhere the divine nature is, there also is his human nature united to it, so that these two natures do not become separate persons by being separated by different places.
Jerome says against Vigilantius about the saints resting in Christ, “They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. Therefore if the Lamb is everywhere, certainly also the saints must be believed to be everywhere.” I am aware of how much this passage of Jerome has been abused by the papists to establish the invocation of the saints, as they dream it up. At the present time I am not examining what else “They follow the Lamb wherever he goes” would have to mean and how accurately it expounds revelation. And there is a difference between Christ, who is God and man in unity of person, and the saints, who are not gods by nature. Yet when Jerome feels that the saints are everywhere because of Christ the Lamb whom they follow, it is clear that he also feels that Christ the man is everywhere. And so I wanted to recount this passage to show that this teaching about the presence of Christ’s humanity with us on this earth was not unknown or unheard of in the Church until now. For if this teaching were as strange as they pretend it to be Jerome would not have gotten away with it, especially since he had many enemies who were intent on refuting his writings on every occasion.
Peter Lombard says, “Christ is whole and is everywhere, but there is no whole.”18 This is false if you understand Christ to be somewhere where he does not have his humanity united with him in a personal and heavenly way. For in this way the person is divided. But it is true if you interpret it through the words of Thomas Aquinas, who writes, “The whole person of Christ is in whatever place he pleases, but not wholly, because he is circumscribed by no place.”19 And it is true that Christ is not whole everywhere if by whole you understand the corporeal and visible mass of body and other external attributes of the body.
Bonaventure writes, “When it is said that this man is everywhere, the demonstrative “this” is able to denote the person of Christ or the man by itself. If the person of Christ, then it is true, without doubt, that this man is everywhere. But if the man by itself, it is still true, but not through his proper nature, but through the communication of attributes. Because it belongs to the Son of God by nature it belongs to this man by a supernatural gift.”20 But although in this place Bonaventure adds that this proposition “this man is everywhere” is false if this term “man” is moved to the predicate, meaning that the form of his humanity stretches to all places, nevertheless a little earlier he says that Christ is everywhere personally. We ourselves have taught above that Christ’s humanity is everywhere not by a local stretching but only by that ineffable and heavenly way by which it is hypostatically and inseparably united to his deity.
The author of the Compendium of Theological Truth21 says, “Although Christ’s body is not everywhere since it is a creature and it cannot be equal to its creator in this way, yet in many places is the whole under different hosts, and that is because of the union of flesh to the Word. Because of this it can be in many places at one and the same time more deservingly than other creatures.”22 Therefore, I pray, please consider the reason which he recites why Christ’s body is whole in many places under different, as he says, hosts. He says, “because of the union of flesh to the Word.” But for that same reason wouldn’t it be in all places everywhere? For nowhere is there not a personal union of flesh to the Word. And when he says that a creature cannot be equal to its creator in this way, he speaks correctly if indeed he means that a creature does not have of itself and its own nature the ability to be in all places everywhere. But we have shown above that Christ’s humanity, which is a creature, is not simultaneously in many places or in all places locally or circumscriptively, but rather that it fills all things in a heavenly way which it does not have from itself but from the deity to which it is personally and inseparably united.
I do not quote these testimonies of the scholastic writers because I feel that we should return to that filth and seek help from them to stabilize holy teachings, for it is well-known how much human philosophy has corrupted heavenly doctrine. Rather, I do this in order to show that even their opinions, if the sophist filth is washed away and their words are rightly understood, will fight on our side.
And although Luther did, as his writings testify, teach that Christ’s body is everywhere based on the fact that he is seated at the right hand of the Father, he did not understand it any differently than when Paul said that Christ “ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe” (Ephesians 4:10) or than when it is commonly said that the two natures, namely the divine and human, are hypostatically, indivisibly, and inseparably united in the person of Christ. For this reason, as little as the nature of a human body which is hypostatically and personally united with deity prevents Christ’s humanity from filling all things in a heavenly way does it prevent Christ’s body and blood from being present in the Sacrament, that is, the bread and wine of the supper. This certainly does not happen locally nor circumscriptively, or even by transubstantiation, as the papists jest, but truly, really, and substantially in a heavenly way incomprehensible to human reason. Here ends our treatment of the hypostatic and personal union of the two natures in Christ.
From this point on let us now go through Christ’s ascent into heaven and his being seated at the right hand of God the Father, the article of our faith with which they are accustomed to objecting against us in order to drive Christ’s body and blood out of the Supper.
To begin, no one has ever questioned or doubted whether Christ ascended into heaven. For it is clear and certain that forty days after his resurrection Christ ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives as his disciples watched, and a cloud hid him from their eyes. This visible ascension of Christ into heaven has the most certain testimonies of the writings of the Prophets and Apostles. The reason why it occurred is explained in the catechism and will not be explained in this place.
But presently the question is asked whether Christ ascended into heaven in such a way that he had not previously been in heaven, except according to his deity, and now he dwelled locally and circumscriptively in heaven such that he is not also on earth in a heavenly and indescribable way and that his body and blood are not really and truly in the Supper.
This must certainly be denied, and to this day no one has shown with solid arguments that Christ’s body occupies this outer and worldly heaven in such a way that he would have to be substantially absent from the Supper and its bread. We are not ignorant of the fact that that worldly heaven, although it is not in a place, as has been said above, still has and contains within it places which are different and far away from the places of this earth according to human eyes. And we do not deny that Christ is able to be in this heaven locally also and to reveal himself locally and circumscriptively wherever he wishes. But right now we are discussing whether heavenly and earthly places are as distant from each other to the body of Christ, which is personally and inseparably united with his deity, as they are in human eyes.
We certainly must not think of Christ’s humanity and his body as being just as any other human body in this aspect. In order for us to recognize this, it will have to be explained a little more fully. And because we have already spoken about the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ, which testifies into how much majesty Christ’s humanity has been raised and exalted, let us now talk about Christ’s ascent into heaven. For he did not ascend into heaven in such a way that he clings onto some specific place of this outer heaven. For we do not deprive him of his power, as we have already said. Surely he is able, if he wishes, to dwell visibly in this outer heaven too. But his ascension did not station him in this heaven in such a way that he does not transcend and surpass all heavens. It is not Christian but Aristotelian to enclose Christ’s body within a segment of this heaven. It was the voice of Aristotle, not the voice of Christ, who said, “Beyond heaven there is not, nor can there ever be, a body.”
But let us imagine Christ to have his local throne or, as they say, residence in this outer heaven. What then? Certainly also a place in heaven ought to be rather distinguished for a rather distinguished body, as Christ’s body is. I know that to men living below it heaven is upwards on all sides, but if Aristotle’s speculations, that is, Physics, are to be believed, it is not the North Pole appearing above us in the northern hemisphere but the South Pole below us which is superior and is for that reason judged also to be a more distinguished part of heaven. Therefore if there ought to be a more distinguished place for Christ in heaven, surely he will dwell not above us but below us, around the South Pole. And if altogether Christ’s body pleases to be stationed in a peculiar and certain place of this outer heaven, it is necessary that he be stationed in only one of the poles, either North or South, because indeed they alone are fixed and immovable. But other parts of heaven are carried off and rolled around the earth by the motion of the firmament each day. Unless you happen to be of the opinion that Christ with his body is dragged around the earth with the heaven each day watching what is done everywhere on earth.
And finally, to where will Christ withdraw with his body and furthermore with all his saints after this outer heaven passes away, as Christ says, and are ablaze with fire, as Peter teaches? For Aristotle does not permit him to withdraw beyond heaven. To be sure, it is his opinion that it is impossible for a body to be beyond heaven even if he otherwise realizes that beyond heaven are beings which lead the best life. But let these opinions of theirs be gone.
We must seek the true essence of Christ’s ascension into heaven not from human reason but from the Word of God. Therefore Christ’s ascension into heaven is interpreted first as that appendix in the creed confirmed by all the prophetic and apostolic writings: “[He] is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” But the right hand of God is not some corporeal or worldly place to which Christ sort of binds himself but rather it is the omnipotence and majesty of God. Because these are not enclosed into any one peculiar place in such a way that he does not fill heaven and earth, and everything for that matter, it follows by necessity that Christ is also not stationed only in this outer heaven with his humanity with which he is seated at the right hand of God. For because the right hand of God, at which Christ is seated, fills heaven and earth, it not only means that Christ’s kingdom and power but also his humanity, with which he is seated at the right hand of God, is personally accessible from all sides to all things, and it is present in a heavenly and not a human way, and has all things in view and governs them in person. And since Luther in his essay which he titled “That These Words of Christ, ‘This is My Body,’ etc., Still Stand Firm against the Fanatics” faithfully and fully explained and upheld that this certainly cannot be attacked by human reason and sophisticated skill or overthrown by true arguments, I will not go on any longer.
Then the Apostle’s words are interpreted as Christ’s ascension. In Acts of the Apostles Peter says, “He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything” (Acts 3:21), but he does not mean that Christ is stuck in this outer heaven but that he has been removed from the disciples’ eyes and that he has a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. Therefore let us hear an Apostle’s interpretation.
In the fourth chapter of Ephesians Paul writes, “[He] ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill all things.”23 Paul does not tie Christ with his humanity to any one place of this outer heaven, but lifts him “higher that all the heavens,” and he expressly adds, “in order to fill all things.” What all does he fill? All prophetic revelations? I know that this is both the ancient and modern exposition of many writers. And it is also true that all prophetic revelations have in fact been fulfilled by Christ. But Paul is not speaking here about this fulfillment, but about the filling of things below and things above, that is, of heaven, of earth, and of all things. For a little earlier he had said, “What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens.” Here you hear ‘the lower, earthly regions.’ You hear ‘higher than all the heavens.’ You see the contrast of descending and ascending. It is therefore impossible for you to relate the expression “to fill all things” in this passage to prophetic revelations. Instead, you ought to relate it to what is mentioned nearby, namely, the lowest and the highest parts of the world. And by this it is meant that Christ received the majesty of God his Father and lordship over all, both the lowest things and the highest things, and he personally governs and watches over them, being present not only with his deity but also with his humanity.
And this also agrees with what was written in Hebrews 4: “We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens.” He does not say that he is stuck in some place in heaven but that he has gone through the heavens. And he shows this more clearly in another passage, saying that Christ was “exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). If he has been exalted above the heavens, how is he contained within heaven in some place in such a way that he does not fill other things also?
But elsewhere Paul expounds very clearly just how high Christ climbed with his humanity when he writes to the Ephesians, “[God] seated [Jesus] at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given” (1:20-21). And he writes to the Philippians, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (2:9-10). These passages exalt Christ with his humanity not only above all outer heavens but even above every creature, whether in heaven or on earth. And why? Didn’t Christ, with respect to his human nature, enter into the glory of his Father and receive all his majesty? But Isaiah says about God’s glory and majesty, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” (40:12). And Solomon says, “The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him” (2 Chronicles 2:6). Therefore since Christ, according to his humanity, was raised in his ascension to this glory and majesty of God, his ascension into heaven far from proves that he is stuck in some place of this physical heaven. Rather, it testifies that he has been exalted above all heavens, including everything both above and below, both on earth and in heaven.
But allow me to follow my plan. It is clear that forty days after the resurrection Christ ascended into heaven and was visibly removed in view of his disciples so that he might be seated at the right hand of his Father and fill all things. But could he not at some other time also have ascended invisibly? Isn’t he already seated at the right hand of the Father when he is removed from the eyes of the disciples on the Mount of Olives? At that time he was certainly ascending for the first time visibly, but he also had already previously ascended and was sitting at the right hand of God invisibly in his resurrection from the dead. For the ascension which happened on the Mount of Olives was visible and the ascension which happened in the resurrection was invisible. In the book of Matthew Christ says, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom” (26:29). But it cannot be denied that immediately after the resurrection he ate and drank with the disciples. Therefore it is clear that he was at that time in his Father’s kingdom, to which he had invisibly ascended in the resurrection.
In the book of Luke he says, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (24:26). But he had already completed his suffering by the time he had risen from the dead. Therefore it remains that he had also already entered into his glory and majesty and was seated at the right hand of God.
But I will not burden the reader by relating to him something to weigh and here writing what Jerome says to Marcella about this matter. He says:
The final page treats whether or not in the forty days after the resurrection the Lord dwelt with the disciples or whether he was elsewhere and secretly ascended to heaven and descended yet without denying the Apostles his presence. If you consider that the Lord is the Son of God both who says and about whom it is said. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24). And about him another prophet testifies, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). And again elsewhere, “Who has. . . with the the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket?” (Isaiah 40:12). David sings about him, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up into the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-10). Certainly you do not doubt that even before the resurrection God the Word dwelt in the Lord’s body such that he was in the Father and closed the circle of heaven and was poured out onto and around all things, that is, that he penetrates the inside and contains the outside of all things. Therefore it is stupid that the power of him whom heaven does not hold be limited by the littleness of one body, and yet he who was everywhere was whole in the Son of Man. To be sure the divine nature, and God for that matter, cannot be cut up into parts nor divided by places but because it is everywhere it is whole everywhere.
Therefore for forty days he was at one and the same time not only with the Apostles but also with the angels and in the Father and in the furthest edges of the sea. He was dwelling in all places, with Thomas in India, with Peter in Rome, with Andrew in Achaia, with each of the Apostles and the apostolic men in all their respective regions. But when it is said that he left or did not leave certain people, no limit is being placed upon his nature. Rather, this describes the merits of those among whom he deigned to be or not to be.24
Therefore let us weigh up how much this response applies to our present undertaking. Marcella had asked whether after his resurrection and before his ascension Christ appeared to the disciples in such a way that he was at the same time secretly ascending into heaven and descending. But the question is not about the presence of Christ’s divinity, about which Marcella no doubt knew, but about the presence of his humanity: After his resurrection up to the time of his ascension did Christ always dwell with the apostles visibly with his humanity or was he at the same time secretly ascending into heaven and descending? If when Jerome preached about the presence of Christ in all places and regions he meant only the presence of his divinity, it would have to mean that he is a deceiver and when asked about a beat he responds about a gourd. For the poor woman did not ask about the presence of the divinity, but about the presence of the humanity of Christ. But it is my better opinion and judgment that he responded to the question correctly. Therefore the things he preaches about the presence of Christ in all places must be understood as not only about the presence of his divinity, about which Marcella did not ask, but also about the presence of his humanity which is hypostatically united with his divinity and is therefore joined to it in such a way that everywhere his divinity is his humanity is not absent.
Let us at this time also quote Ambrose on Christ’s words in Luke: “When I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have” (10:35). Ambrose says, “Therefore he vows that he will return.25 When will you return, Lord, if not on the Day of Judgment? For although you are always everywhere and are standing in our midst, you are never seen by us. Yet there will be a time when all flesh will see you returning.” It is certainly easy to say that Ambrose speaks about the presence of his divinity, but it is clear that he speaks about the whole person of Christ. To separate Christ’s humanity, which he assumed into a unity of person, from his divinity is more easily said than done. But let us return to our main point.
For in his visible ascension into heaven Christ did not testify that he would always be held circumscriptively in some place of outer heaven up until the final day of this world, but rather that he has a heavenly kingdom and will no longer dwell among us in an earthly manner until he returns to judge the world. In the same way also with his appearances after his resurrection he did not mean that between the time of his resurrection and his visible ascension he was not in his Father’s kingdom or seated at his right hand in all majesty, but rather he wished with these appearances to prove the veracity of his resurrection, while at the same time he no less filled heaven and earth and was established over all principalities and powers.
But what need is there to speak only about the time of Christ’s resurrection and ascension if already from the beginning, from the moment of his incarnation, he invisibly ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of God his Father?26 Perhaps you will wonder why he would wish this for himself, but you will stop wondering if you rightly consider the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ which was made from the beginning of his incarnation. For if Christ’s deity and humanity are one inseparable person, it certainly cannot be denied that when the Son of God assumed the Son of Man in his mother’s womb into a unity of person he continually lifted him up and stationed him in the majesty and glory in which he himself was from the beginning with his Father. He had not yet suffered death when he was transfigured on the mountain in front of the disciples. When by this sight he showed to the disciples as a taste of his majesty he publicly demonstrated his heavenly majesty, and it was not lacking to him from the beginning up to this point nor ever would it be lacking into eternity. He says, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man, who is in heaven” (John 3:13). And when did this happen? When in his mother’s womb he assumed the Son of Man into the same person. And so also then the Son of Man ascended into heaven and henceforth is in heaven even if he is affected by all kinds of insults on earth. For doesn’t Paul say, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17)? But Christ had all righteousness, and all peace with God his Father, and all joy in the Holy Spirit also before he rose from the dead and visibly ascended into heaven. Therefore it cannot be denied that also at that time he was in his Father’s kingdom.
For also if the majesty of Christ’s humanity was so great from the beginning of when it was assumed into God, how did he carry human weaknesses? How did he suffer whipping and death? The response is both easy and true. He undertook our weaknesses, not by necessity but by will, and he suffered not a forced death but a willing one. For he was in majesty so great that he would have been able to pass by these weaknesses from the beginning or, when he had already begun to receive them, to cast them off in a moment, but by his own free will he wished to receive them and follow through to the point of death in order to satisfy the will of his Father and to procure our salvation before him by the expiation of our sins through his death. Paul says, “[He], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). And so he truly suffered human pains and he truly died. Yet at the same time he retained his authoritative majesty (as it was called in former times) which he executively revealed in his time. At the time of his humility he assented to not show his full majesty, which he did have. Yet he did not altogether conceal it. More than a few times he bore witness to its presence with clear evidences. For he also fasted forty days and nights and walked upon water and rendered himself invisible and woke up the dead with a touch and transformed himself with heavenly glory in front of his disciples.
Those who deny Christ’s humanity its heavenly presence, both in heaven and on earth and chiefly in the Lord’s Supper, by necessity have to grant many spiritual and heavenly decorations to the bodies of other men, without changing their substance, both in this world and the world to be. And it is astonishing how they will not, however, grant the same or an even more excellent majesty to that body which is hypostatically united with his divinity in the person of Christ. Please consider, I pray, how absurd the changes of things would be if we would hold fixed and firm the idea that when supernatural things happen to the substances of things by a divine miracle that immediately the substances themselves are automatically changed. Moses’ face shone with such splendor that the Israelites were not able to look at it. Elijah was carried up into heaven with his body. Peter walked with his body on the sea as if on dry ground. Philip all of a sudden disappeared from the eyes of the eunuch. Paul was seized into the third heaven and into paradise, and did not know whether in the body or beyond the body. And indeed these supernatural things wonderfully happen to human bodies without changing their substances. But why? Many supernatural things are happening all the time to the bodies of not only men but also other things, both animate and inanimate, without violating their substances. Balaam’s donkey speaks like a man. The water of the red sea stands on both sides as a wall. In Joshua, the sun and the moon stand still throughout one day and yet it is their nature to run indefinitely. Plato says that sun and the moon were called ‘gods’ by the ancients because they always continue to run. Aristotle writes that there is no end to heavenly motion. Therefore while the sun and the moon were standing still against Gibeon, wouldn’t they have at the same time retained their substance and the sun remained the sun and the moon remained the moon. In the second book of Kings, iron floats on the surface of the water, and yet it remains the substance of iron even if gravity gives way. You say that either an angel or God himself placed his hand beneath the iron to lift it up on high. True, nor do we believe that the supernatural things which happened to the body of Christ happened to it apart from the power of the hand of God. And in the book of Daniel, the fire hurt the youths who were thrown into it so little that it burnt not even the hairs of their heads. But that is enough about the miracles of the bodies in this world.
In the world to come, however, in the resurrection of the dead, human bodies, even though they will be decorated with heavenly glory, will still be true bodies. The four qualities with which human bodies will be decorated are typically enumerated as impassibility,27 brightness,28 elusiveness,29 and agility.30 Paul says, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). And a little later he adds, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
And Augustine says, “We ought to believe that we will inhabit bodies of such a kind that we will be wherever we want whenever we want.” And again, “Not without cause are those bodies called spiritual. They are not called spiritual because they are spirits and not bodies. For these bodies which we now have are called souled bodies and yet they are not souls but bodies. Thus they are called spiritual, even though they are not spirits, because they will obey the command of the Spirit.” And a little later: “You are wherever you want to be but wherever you go you will have your God.”31 Do you hear how much majesty and how many qualities belong to human bodies by divine help? Don’t you think that many more, more glorious, and more divine qualities and majesties can belong to that body which has been assumed by the Son of God into a unity of person in a hypostatic union without changing either substance?
Augustine and many others are of the opinion that Christ passed through the closed womb of his mother in his birth and through the closed door to the disciples after his resurrection. Augustine says, “Why is it surprising that if the Lord caused his glorified body to enter to his disciples, astonishing those locked inside, if he entered the door of this world without harming the seal of his mother’s purity? You would not doubt that his birth was unknown to nature if you saw him whom you regard as having done so wonderful things as he was born triumphantly exercising his power.” And again. “Why is it surprising if he for whom the inmost chamber of heaven and the secrets known only to the angels are always open causes the substance of our body to enter through closed doors.”32
Others relate that a glorious body passed through the spheres of heaven without dividing them, but whether this was done by the strength of elusiveness, as they say, or by virtue of divine power, it is certainly necessary that two bodies were in one place. And that it is really no less a miracle than if one body was in two or more places at the same time. And to be brief, if the Son of God did not refuse to assume the Son of Man into a hypostatic and inseparable union and raise him with him to the right hand of God, he also does not refuse to confer upon him all his majesty, while keeping his substance. Therefore Christ’s visible ascension into heaven and being seated at the right hand of God the Father are so far from hindering his body and blood from being truly really present in the Supper that they actually establish and uphold it more than anything else. And you cannot drive his body and blood out from the Supper unless you at the same time also drag them from the right hand of the Father.
But you say, “If the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ is so strong that everywhere his deity is, there also is his humanity, but not, as is often said, by a local spreading or a geometric stretching or a solid circumscription, or by that wonderful thing, which the papists dream, transubstantiation, but rather in an astonishing and heavenly way, why do I need to receive Christ’s body and blood in the Supper instituted by him if I have at home bread and wine in which Christ’s body and blood are present and I can consume them each day, indeed each hour?” But listen. Although Christ is very much present with his majesty together with his body and blood in your bread and wine at home, Christ’s Word must be followed in order that your consumption have any effect. When Christ was about to undergo death and gave us his body and blood to make us certain of the remission of sins and eternal life, he did not refer the Church to bread and wine eaten at home but to the bread and wine of his Supper as he said, “Take and eat; this is my body. Drink, this is my blood.” Therefore in the Supper, where Christ’s word and mandate is, his body and blood is received, so that although indeed they truly were already present because of the personal union of the two natures in Christ and his being seated at the right hand of God the Father, not locally, buy personally and in a heavenly way, they are now also present definitively. For with his word Christ defines where he wishes to dispense his body and blood to be eaten. Sometimes we call this defining ‘consecration.’ But Luther wrote much about this matter in an essay titled “That These Words of Christ, ‘This is My Body,’ etc., Still Stand Firm against the Fanatics,” and it has been fully explained by me elsewhere.
Finally, many people wonder how it could be possible that Christ says about the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood. . . . will live forever” (John 6:56,58) and yet the impious hypocrites and the wicked and the impenitent, who do not have true faith, consume Christ’s body and blood in the Supper. But if the things we have said above about the presence and distribution of Christ’s body and blood are rightly considered, no scruples remain here. For since it stands firm from the personal union of the two natures in Christ and from Christ’s word that his body and blood are truly and substantially present and distributed in the Supper, there are no liars, hypocrites, and wicked men great enough to overturn it. Paul says, “Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!” (Romans 3:3). And they certainly do eat Christ’s body and blood in the Supper, but instead of receiving the saving fruit of these things they bring danger to their eternal salvation by their consumption. As Paul says, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29). And why is this surprising? Isn’t God himself, who fills heaven and earth and by whom we all live and move and have our being, by his nature innocence, charity, righteousness, life, light, truth, and happiness? And yet, according to the Psalm, to the crooked he shows himself shrewd (18:27), to the unrighteous he shows himself unrighteous, to the blind he is blindness, and to the liar he shows himself as liar, certainly not by the fault of God but by the fault of impious men who fashion for themselves a god just like themselves. Isn’t Christ’s Gospel the wisdom and power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes? And yet it is foolishness to the foolish and annihilation to those who are perishing. Please listen to Christ himself. He says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:29). But they will become blind not because Christ is not light, but because they themselves are dark who are blinded by their own vice as they fight with the light. Therefore although Christ’s body and blood in the Supper are for believers food and drink for eternal life, yet the hypocrites and the impenitent eat and drink judgment, or damnation, upon themselves because by their own impiety they abuse these things which are most saving.
These things which are seen are to remind us of the true presence and distribution of Christ’s body and blood in the Supper. And now certainly something should also be said about the true use of the Lord’s Supper, but because this is fully explained elsewhere, I will not detain the faithful reader any more. But from my soul I pray God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to never remove his Spirit from me that I be either an inventor or a defender of new doctrines in the Church. But in proclaiming the indissolvable and inseparable union of Christ’s deity and humanity (which they call by the new term “ubiquity”), in explaining Christ’s being seated at the right hand of God the Father, and in affirming the true presence of his body and blood in the Supper, let me follow the opinion of Doctor Luther. Then I will come to see that it has been secured by the most certain testimonies of the Holy Spirit.
I do not deny that the large crowd of both ecclesiastical and scholastic writers station Christ the man circumscriptively in this outer and earthly heaven in such a way that they do not permit his humanity to be united with his deity everywhere. But their opinions differ as we have shown above, and they are accustomed to indulging at times in such a great mystery with reasons more philosophical than theological. Therefore I choose to follow what the oracles of the Holy Spirit, which are the prophetic and apostolic writings, put forth to be believed rather than what reasons human wisdom puts forth to be understood.
We who from the beginning have directed our spiritual arms against the Antichrist with great consensus have now—o most wretched affair!—turned them on our own innards such that some attack the true presence of Christ’s body and blood with much more hostility than they ever fought against the papists. Others, in case there weren’t already enough stumbling blocks in the Church, hunt everywhere within their friends’ writings and words and deeds for something they might slander and anathematize and condemn in the name of their sect, falsely making many innocent people into sectarians and not understanding that they are creating a new kind of sect which is made up of anathematized people. During these social wars the Church of the sons of God is in jeopardy and the enemies oppressing it never sleep. So what shall we do? Different people propose different plans. As for me, as it pertains to me in these difficult matters and in so great a splitting of souls, remember what is said about old people: “The prayers of the old.”3334 Therefore I repeat the prayer of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:12). For we have no power to remove such great stumbling blocks from Christ’s kingdom and establish tranquility. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you, O Lord our God.
AUTHOR’S PREFACE TO THE APPENDIX
Johannes Brenz S.D. to the pious reader:
I hope that I will not have abused your patience, most excellent reader, if before I leave you I add to this document of ours certain passages selected from the German writings of the reverend doctor of blessed memory, Martin Luther, translated into the Latin language, by which the extraordinary union of the two natures in Christ, Christ’s ascension into heaven, and his being seated at the right hand of God the Father will be explained such that I have no doubts that if you are content to diligently read through them and weigh them up they will remove all your doubts about the true presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Supper. These writings of Luther have already stood for so many years in the Church and with divine blessing they have sustained to this day the highest concord among us who truly recognize the Augsburg Confession. And as far as I know, there has not been anyone among us who attacked this peace either while Luther was still alive or immediately following his departure from this life. But I can never wonder enough at how this fate came about that in these times Luther’s writing have come into doubt. Indeed, they are spat on as if a monstrous dog. But I do know that Paul encourages us not to be “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14). Rather, let us hold on to our confession of faith. I bid you a good and blessed farewell, and ponder well this good work of ours.
Physics 4.1 ↩
On the Heavens 1.7 ↩
From Euripedes’ Helen ↩
This slanderous term alleges that the Lutherans believed in a fleshly and carnal consumption of Christ in the Sacrament. The reference is to the literalistically-minded people to whom Jesus spoke the Bread of Life discourse in Capernaum. “Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52) ↩
According to Greek mythology, Thyestes ate his own sons for dinner, served to him by his twin brother Atreus. ↩
“Pantachusiastas.” In response to the original edition of this work, later that year the Italian reformed theologian Peter Martyr Vermigli authored a hypothetical dialogue entitled, “Dialogue on the Two Natures of Christ,” between himself and Brenz in which he uses for Brenz the pseudoname “Pantachus,” meaning “everywhere” and himself goes by the name “Orothetes” meaning “boundary setter.” In this dialogue he lifts some of Pantachus’s speeches directly from this work of Brenz. Orothetes is portrayed by Vermigli both as always winning the argument and as being much kinder and gentler than Pantachus. ↩
We shall allow Luther to define for us what is meant by these various manners of presence. “In the first place, an object is circumscriptively or locally in a place, i.e. in a circumscribed manner, if the space and the object occupying it exactly correspond and fit into the same measurements, such as wine or water in a cask, where the wine occupies no more space and the cask yields no more space than the volume of the wine. . . . In the second place, an object is in a place definitively, i.e. in an uncircumscribed manner, if the object or body is not palpably in one place and is not measurable according to the dimensions of the place where it is, but can occupy either more room or less. Thus it is said that angels and spirits are in certain places. For an angel or devil can be present in an entire house or city; again, he can be in a room, a chest or a box, indeed, in a nutshell. . . . This I call an uncircumscribed presence in a given place, since we cannot circumscribe or measure it as we measure a body, and yet it is obviously present in the place. . . . In the third place, an object occupies places repletively, i.e. supernaturally, if it is simultaneously present in all places whole and entire, and fills all places, yet without being measured or circumscribed by any place, in terms of the space which it occupies. This mode of existence belongs to God alone, as he says in the prophet Jeremiah [23:23f.], “I am a God at hand and not afar off. I fill heaven and earth.” This mode is altogether incomprehensible, beyond our reason, and can be maintained only with faith, in the Word.” Taken from pages 215-216 of “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper,” as found in the St. Louis edition of Luther’s Works, Vol. 37. ↩
Gabriel Biel. On Book 3 of the Sentences: Distinction 22 Question 2 ↩
Oration 38.8 ↩
To Dardanus, Letter 187 ↩
Augustine Vol 10 Discourse 147 ↩
Augustine City of God book 12 chapter 17 ↩
On the Heavens 1.9 ↩
Actually a quote from Athanasius, Against the Arians, Discourse 3 Chapter 5.40 ↩
As would be almost expected during a discussion of idiomatic difference between languages, English does not fully reflect what Brenz is saying. The Latin expression, “communicatio idiomatum” has by English dogmaticians been rendered as “communication of attributes.” That same word “idiomatum” can also refer to its English cognate as we use it, idioms in speech. It was this meaning that misled the many to which Brenz here refers to mistake the real communication of attributes for a mere communication of idioms. ↩
Cyril, “About the Incarnation of the Only-begotten,” chapter 28. ↩
On the Gospels, Book 2, Homily 21 ↩
Sentences Book 3 Distinction 22 ↩
Summary Part 3 Question 52 Article 3 ↩
On the 3 Sentence, Distinction 22 Question 2 ↩
Hugh of Strasbourg, O.P. (fl. 1270-1290) ↩
Book 1 Chapter 17 ↩
The expression in Ephesians 4:10 translated by the NIV as “the whole universe” is rendered in Latin simply as omnia. Brenz’s point in this paragraph is that the “all things” refer to the whole universe and that Christ does indeed fill them. ↩
Tome 4 ↩
Here Ambrose gets much higher marks in both dogmatics and in allegorical creativity than in sound exegesis. These words are those of the Good Samaritan to the innkeeper within a parable of Jesus. While reading into them a promise that Jesus will return on Judgment Day is a stretch, none of the truths which Ambrose thinks he sees in this passage are false. ↩
Francis Pieper writes, “Tuebingen, however, and before them Brenz, spoke as though the sessio ad dextram Dei should be ascribed to Christ even in the state of exinanation: He exercised universal dominion in the same degree, although in a concealed manner, as He now does in the state of exaltation. But according to Scripture the ‘sitting at the right hand of God’ began with the state of exaltation. The words of John 17:5: ‘And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine Own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was,’ speak of a glorification which began only with the exaltation. The language of Tuebingen, which puts Christ at the right hand of God in the state of exinanation, was not Scriptural. It confused their thinking and even more so that of others.” “While Scripture declares that Christ during His humiliation was in heaven, it reserves the sessio ad dextram for the state of exaltation. Brenz was wrong in saying that Christ through his incarnation ascended into heaven and was placed at the right hand of God (De personali unione, 1561, F.a.1). Only the first half of that statement is in accord with Scripture. The statement of the Tuebingen theologians that through His incarnation Christ ascended into heaven is Scriptural. Quenstedt had no right to list it as a slip (Systema II, p. 560). V.E. Loescher should not have said that when Brenz spoke of the ascensio in coelum per incarnationem facta, he did not speak of an ascension in the strict Biblical sense (Historia motuum II, p. 272). Brenz did mean exactly what he said, and Scripture supports him. Since Christ in His incarnation remained in heaven (as all must admit who do not hold a breach on the Trinity), and since His humanity was assumed into the Godhead, Christ could not but be in heaven also according to His human nature.” Christian Dogmatics, Vol. II, 297,303. ↩
Insusceptibility to suffering ↩
Daniel 12:3 “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” ↩
The ability to pass through objects ↩
The ability to instantly be at another place without constraints of time or distance ↩
Sermon 142 ↩
Sermon 161 ↩
A quotation from Hesiod in his Harpocration. The entire passage reads, “The works of the young, the counsels of the middle-aged, and the prayers of the old.” ↩
Brenz was already 62 years old when this writing was first published and was no longer living at the time of its second printing ten years later. ↩