Manna from Heaven: Huldrych Zwingli’s Eucharistic Reversal

This paper will explore Huldrych Zwingli’s Eucharistic beliefs that developed especially during his pastorate at Zurich from 1519-1531. While much attention has been given to the matter of Jesus’ presence in the elements and a so called Zwinglian “Memorial” view of the Supper, this project will focus attention elsewhere. Special focus will be given to how the preacher and Renaissance humanist shifted away from traditional and time-honored late medieval Catholic practices, which were crucial to the Roman Mass. Additional consideration will also be given to later influences on Zwingli’s Eucharistic beliefs that surfaced with the rise of the Anabaptist movement in the mid-1520s.

What eventually emerged from Zwingli’s reforming work at Zurich was the birth of the first Reformed Lord’s Supper in April of 1525. As humanistic readings of the biblical text refashioned Zwingli’s Eucharistic convictions, the reformer reversed not only key basic theological convictions undergirding the Catholic practice of the Mass, but also many of the liturgical movements of the Roman Church. These changes made the Eucharist Christocentric but also rooted in his Reformed beliefs about the community. In addition to these liturgical changes, Zwingli also reversed course about his beliefs regarding the purpose for the Supper. Here, he waffled on the matter of the Supper as a divine accommodation to human weakness, shifting position several times over the course of his career.

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