What then is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer:– It is the true body and blood of Christ our Lord, in and with bread and wine, commanded through the words of Christ, for us Christians to eat and to drink. And as we have said concerning Baptism, that it is not simple water, so we may also say here, this sacrament is bread and wine, but not mere bread and wine, as taken to the table on other occasions, but bread and wine comprehended in the Word of God and connected with it.
It is the word, I say, that makes and distinguishes this sacrament, so that it is not mere bread and wine, but is, and is called, the body and blood of Christ. For it is said: Accedat verbum ad elementum, et fit sacramentum, that is, when the word is added to the external element, it becomes a sacrament. This declaration of St. Augustine is very explicit, and he has scarcely anywhere uttered a more excellent one. The word appropriates the element to the sacrament; if this is not done, it remains a mere element. Now, it is not the word and ordinance or institution of a prince or of an emperor, but the word of the Supreme Majesty; thereforer all creatures should prostrate themselves, and acknowledge it to be even as he says, and we should accept it with all honor, fear, and humility.
By this word you can strengthen your conscience, and say: "If a hundred thousand devils, together with all the fanatics, approach, exclaiming, how can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ, &c., I still know that all these spirits and the learned altogether, are not as wise as the Divine Majesty." Now, here occur the words of Christ: Take, eat, this is my body; drink ye all of this, this is the new testament in my blood, &c. To these words we constantly adhere, and we shall see who may presume to overcome Christ, and to use these words otherwise than he has declared them. It is true indeed, if you separate the words from it, or view it apart from the words, there remains nothing but mere bread and wine; but if the words remain with the bread and wine, as they should and must, this sacrament is, agreeably to the words themselves, the true body and blood of Christ. For as the mouth of Christ speaks and declares, so it is, inasmuch as he can neither lie nor deceive.
Hence it is easy to reply to the various questions, about which many are now solicitous; for instance,– whether a wicked priest may handle and administer the Sacrament, and the like? For here we conclude, and assert: Even if a knave receives or administers the Sacrament, he receives the right Sacrament, that is, the body and blood of Christ, as well as he who partakes it in the most reverential and dignified manner; for it is founded, not upon human sanctity, but upon the Word of God; and as no saint on earth, yea, no angel in heaven, can make bread and wine the body and blood of Christ, so likewise no one can alter or change it, even if the Sacrament is misused. The words, through which it became a sacrament, and through which it was instituted, do not become false on account of the unworthiness or unbelief of the person. For he does not say, if you believe or are worthy, you have my body and blood, but, Take, eat, and drink, this is my body and blood. Again, do this, (namely, this which I now do, institute, give and command you to take,) which is as much as to say: Thank God, whether you be worthy or unworthy, you here have Christ's body and blood by virtue of these words which come to the bread and wine. Mark this, and retain it well; for upon these words depend our grounds, our protection, and defence against all the errors and seductions which have arisen, and which may yet arise.