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Peter J. Leithart » Blog Archive » Priesthood and Sacrament

As McCabe says at the outset: “This book will be about revelation, about the community God has established, and about the sacraments that constitute it.”  Yet, when it comes down to it, this strictly pertains only to the ordained priesthood.  Only they “must” participate sacramentally in Christ’s self-mediation to the church.  The laity are “free” to participate in Christian community non-sacramentally.  On this argument, the plebs are still left with a half-priesthood.

McCabe’s arguments confirm a suspicion: The mainstream Reformers were not anti-sacramental, but that’s not the suspicion.  The suspicion is that the mainstream Reformers were more sacramental than the Catholic church.  For the Reformers, no one was to participate in the life of Christ’s body non-sacramentally.  Sacramental participation and membership in Christ are completely co-extensive; there’s no spillage or overlap, such that someone (an infant, say!) might be seen as a member of Christ without being marked with Christ’s sacramental sign.  The Reformation was not a triumph of word over sacrament; it was a triumph of sacraments.

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