The Sacraments

by Balthasar Mentzer
translated by David Strucely

Translator’s Preface

This is an excerpt from Mentzer’s Herrliches Catolisches Haendbuchlein. The following chapters, chapters sixteen and seventeen, concern the two Sacraments.

The Sixteenth Chapter:

Concerning Holy Baptism

151. What is Baptism?

Baptism is a sprinkling of a living person with water in the name of God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit so that he is born again through this and is renewed.

152. Who instituted Baptism?

God himself sent John the Baptist to baptize (John 1:33) and afterwards the disciples of the Lord Christ also baptized in the Jewish land (John 3:22; 4:2). However, when Christ was about to return to heaven, he sent his disciples into the entire world to teach the gospel and to baptize the people (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16).

153. What kind of power and effect does Baptism have?

Baptism is a bath of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; John 3:5) in which we are cleansed from sin through the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7; Acts 22:16) are united to Christ (Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:26,27) and are saved (1 Peter 3:21).

154. If only God can forgive sins and save how can these then be attributed to the water of Baptism?

God alone has the power to forgive sins and Christ alone has earned and won for us the forgiveness of sins, but it pleased his divine wisdom to use this Holy Sacrament as a means of purifying us from sin and giving us and sealing for us righteousness and eternal life.

155. Are all the baptized justified and saved?

Christ says in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” For faith is like the spiritual hand which grasps and keeps the good things placed before us and given to us by God in baptism. Whoever now has through faith held onto these and will hold onto these until the end is saved; however, whoever of his own accord rejects them through unbelief or makes himself forfeit of them through subsequent persistent impenitence and unthankfulness, he is condemned.

156. How can young children believe since they neither hear nor understand the Word? For as Romans 10:17 says, faith comes from hearing.

From birth onward all men are born flesh from flesh (John 3:6) and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) and thus without faith and confidence in God. But when children are brought to Holy Baptism and are baptized according to Christ’s command, then the Holy Spirit works his divine effect in them so that he enlightens them inwardly and makes the faith in Christ burn in them which is all the more certain since no fleshly desires are still moving in them and still opposing the Holy Spirit in his working, as it is accustomed to find with adults because the flesh fights against the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:17) and the impenitent resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).

157. When children are born again in Baptism, from where then does their wickedness come when they become adults?

One must not only receive God’s grace and gifts, but also retain and keep them in a pure heart (Luke 8:15, Philemon 1:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; Revelation 3:3). Therefore, it is necessary that children are brought up in godliness and are taught diligently so that they continue constantly in the covenant of grace with God. Then, wherever that is neglected, there the all too corrupted nature is led easily to evil (Romans 7:14; 6:12, 13). Heed well the preaching of the Lord Christ (Luke 11:24ff.)

158. Then is sin not entirely and with its roots eradicated in Baptism?

God washes us pure from all sin in Baptism (1 John 1:7; Acts 22:16) and adopts us out of grace as his dear children (Galatians 3:26, 27) but the inborn corruption of the sinful nature remains stuck to us (Romans 7:14, 17, 18, 21) so that we always must fight against it (Galatians 5:17). From this also all weakness and finally death itself come (Romans 6:23) from which young children are also not exempt and there is no Christian living on earth who would not sense the evil desire in himself against which he must resist through the Spirit so that it may not gain the upper hand. Then, whoever lives according to the desires of the flesh will die (Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:16).

159. How long does the usefulness of Baptism last?

It lasts throughout the entire life. For, we make a covenant with God in Baptism (1 Peter 3:21) which God keeps inviolably on his side (Romans 11:29). When now we on our part act through sin against this covenant of grace, but hereafter confess the sin, are contrite, and return to God, we do not make a new covenant with him but we come back to the first covenant from which we had drifted through sin. Then, as soon as God pardons our sin for us, the covenant of our Baptism stands in its first perfection as if we never had sinned. And that is the reason that Baptism is only received once and not repeated often. It is like how it is between a married couple; there is not a new marriage after they have quarreled, but it is only necessary that they reconcile with each other and they constantly hold onto their covenant of marriage which was made only one time. Thus, a believing Christian should and can at all times and in all needs take comfort in his Baptism and found himself firmly upon it that he is a child of God and is able to look for all fatherly grace, protection and help from God as St. Paul instructs the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:11) and the Galatians (Galatians 3:27) and St. Peter (1 Peter 3:21) says about himself and other believers who were baptized long before: Baptism saves us.

160. When the names are given to the baptized in Baptism, what purpose does that serve?

It can and should be an endless reminder of the Baptism one has received, that as often as I hear my name spoken, I think of the covenant made with God in Baptism that I may never act against it and may not anger my heavenly father; or if I offend him with sin, that I just as soon may turn to him through true repentance and conversion and may wholeheartedly ask that he not want to push me away but that he want to pick me up and receive me again to grace in the covenant of Baptism and hold me in it eternally.

The Seventeenth Chapter:

Concerning the Lord’s Supper

161. What is the Lord’s Supper?

It is a heavenly meal instituted by Christ himself shortly before his death in which he gives us his body to eat with the blessed bread and his blood to drink from the blessed cup so that we should proclaim his death and through it be strengthened in our faith.

162. Where is this written?

Three holy evangelists in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 and the Apostle St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 witness unanimously that the food in this most holy meal is bread and the body of Christ and the drink is wine and the blood of Christ and that first the food should be eaten and hereafter the drink should be drunk. What all happens in this high mystery human reason cannot grasp but it must be grasped with a simple faith from and according to the words of institution.

163. How can Christ’s body and blood be received with a physical mouth after Christ has ascended into heaven?

That he knows, who has instituted this Holy Supper, whose words a pious heart believes obediently and knows certainly that he is truthful and all-powerful and he can do what he wants (Psalm 115:3). Nothing is impossible for him (Jeremiah 32:17; Zachariah 8:6; Luke 1:37). He can do everything more extravagantly than we ask or understand according to the power which works in us (Ephesians 3:20).

164. Perhaps the words of institution have another meaning: that the words body and blood are understood as signs of body and blood.

Some people indeed imagine these words in this way and go to make metaphors out of the sacraments and know how to make it sound very nice, that namely, as the bread and wine are received with the physical mouth, so one must view and enjoy the body and blood of Christ in heaven with a believing soul; however, we are not driven away from the words of Christ who says, “Eat; this is my body; and drink; this is my blood.”

165. However, if this is a spiritual meal, must not the eating and drinking also be spiritual?

Indeed, it is not a physical meal belonging to the preservation of natural life but a spiritual, heavenly meal; all the same there is a difference among the spiritual eating and drinking of faith, in which there is not bread and wine, with which John 6 deals, and among the sacramental eating and drinking in the Lord’s Supper in which the body of Christ is eaten with the bread and the blood of Christ is drunk with the wine because the eating goes before and the drinking follows afterwards. There, faith does not differentiate the eating and drinking in the spiritual consumption. This is always beneficial and belongs to all believers in the Old and New Testaments. However, the sacramental eating and drinking is first commanded in the New Testament and is indeed also beneficial when faith comes to it. However, the ones who eat and drink without faith are unworthy and are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. They eat and drink judgment on themselves as St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29.

166. Must the eating and drinking always be together in the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord Christ fastened both together in the same speaking of the first institution: “Eat; this is my body. Drink; this is my blood.” And in Matthew 26:27 it is revealed: “Drink from it all of you,” that is, all you who have eaten the body of Christ with the blessed bread should also drink his blood from the blessed cup. And Paul has precisely ordered it in this way in the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 10 and 11) and it has also been held in this way in the ancient Catholic church. Therefore, it would otherwise be only a half meal if one should only eat and not also drink, above all, because Christ named the cup the New Testament in his blood (Luke 22:20). From this a powerful comfort can and should be drawn; the ones who are deprived of this are the ones who do not drink.

167. What purpose does such eating and drinking serve?

When we eat and drink, we should hold onto and ponder the words of Christ with believing hearts: “Eat; this is my body which is given for you. Drink; this is my blood which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” That is what it means to rightly proclaim the death of Christ and to attribute his merit to oneself through true faith. And that is the correct Catholic mass as the Ancients say in which we blessedly see the sacrifice of the Lord Christ and from his wounds suck up the forgiveness of sins and eternal life (1 Corinthians 11:26).

168. How should one prepare himself for the Lord’s Supper?

A person should test himself (1 Corinthians 11:28), that is, he should recognize his sins according to the divine law and suffer remorse and sorrow over them, and he should turn to Christ and from him sincerely ask for forgiveness of sins. Then, for the strengthening of his faith he should receive this holy pledge, the examination of which will direct him to thanksgiving to God for the good deeds he has received and to love for neighbor just as Christ has loved him and has given himself into death for him, and it will direct him to demonstrate all kinds of good works so that he may live worthily for Christ and his gospel (Colossians 1:10; 3:17; Philemon 1:27).

169. How should one receive the Lord’s Supper?

One should receive it with great respect because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself is present there and by means of bread and wine he feeds and waters us with his true body and blood. Therefore, it is right and godly that one honors it not only inwardly in the heart but also outwardly with humble demeanor (Philemon 2:10).

A systematic theology on the sacraments.

 May 13, 2011