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Sacramental Union

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also known as
"The Eucharist" or
"The Lord's Supper"


Words of Institution
Real Presence
Sacramental union

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Eucharist (Catholic Church)
Anglican Eucharistic theology

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Augustine · Calvin
Chrysostom · Cranmer
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Catholic Historic Roots
Closed and Open Table
Divine Liturgy
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First Communion
Infant Communion
Mass · Sacrament

Sacramental Union (Latin, unio sacramentalis; German, sacramentlich Einigkeit) is the Lutheran theological view of the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Christian Eucharist. It is asserted to be a unique union to differentiate it from other "unions" in theology like the "personal union" of the two natures in Jesus Christ, the "mystical union" of Christ and his Church, and the "natural union" in the human person of body and soul. In the sacramental union the consecrated bread of the Eucharist is united with the body of Christ and the consecrated wine of the Eucharist is united with the blood of Chirst by virtue of Christ's original institution with the result that anyone eating and drinking these "elements"—the consecrated bread and wine—really eat and drink the physical body and physical blood of Christ as well. This view was put forward by Martin Luther in his 1528 Confession Concerning Christ's Supper:

Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, "This is my body," even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word "this" indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a "sacramental union," because Christ’s body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament. This is not a natural or personal union, as is the case with God and Christ. It is also perhaps a different union from that which the dove has with the Holy Spirit, and the flame with the angel, but it is also assuredly a sacramental union<cite> (WA 26, 442; LW 37, 299-300).

It is asserted in the Wittenberg Concord of 1536 and in the Formula of Concord (Epitiome, VII, 7, 15; Solid Declaration, VII, 14, 18, 35, 38, 117). The Formula of Concord couples the term with the circumlocution ("in, with, and under the forms of bread and wine") used among Lutherans to further define their view:

<cite>For the reason why, in addition to the expressions of Christ and St. Paul (the bread in the Supper is the body of Christ or the communion of the body of Christ), also the forms: under the bread, with the bread, in the bread [the body of Christ is present and offered], are employed, is that by means of them the papistical transubstantiation may be rejected and the sacramental union of the unchanged essence of the bread and of the body of Christ indicated<cite> (FC SD VII, 35; Triglot Concordia, 983).

This view is sometimes identified as consubstantiation in that it asserts the simultaneous presence of four essences in the Eucharist: that of the consecrated bread, the Body of Christ, the consecrated wine, and the Blood of Christ; but it differs in that it does not assert a "local" (three dimensional, circumscribed) presence of the Body and Blood in the sacramental bread and wine respectively, which is rejected as "gross, carnal, and Capernaitic" in the Formula of Concord, (Epitiome, VII, 42; Solid Declaration, VII, 127). The term "consubstantiation" has been associated with such a "local" inclusion of the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacramental bread and wine as has the term "impanation." Lutherans have also rejected the designation of their position as consubstantiation because it mainly denotes a philosophical explanation of the Real Presence as does transubstantiation.

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