Another feature of Vermigli’s sacramental theology is his profound appreciation of the biblical theology of thanksgiving. Vermigli liked to use the word eucharist in referring to the sacrament, because that word emphasized that the Lord’s Supper is a feast of praise and thanksgiving. As Vermigli understood it, one of the cardinal actions of the liturgy is the Eucharistic prayer, in which the church gives thanks in joyful profusion for God’s mighty acts of creation and redemption. Vermigli, like the other Reformers, very much opposed making the sacrament into a sacrifice. To be sure, the sacrament is a memorial and thanksgiving for Christ’s sacrifice. To be sure, Christians, having received the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice, owe to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving and the offering of their lives to his service, but it is by Christ’s sacrifice alone that our salvation has been won. Vermigli distinguished carefully between a propitiatory sacrifice that saves us from our sins and a Eucharistic sacrifice that gives thanks to God for the salvation God has already granted us. Our giving of ourselves to his service, our giving of alms, our self-dedication are entailed by Christ’s obedience sacrifice of himself, but these responses must not be confused with his sacrifice…
…For a Reformed theologian, any tradition, including the Reformed tradition, needs to be measured against Scripture to determine whether it is of value. It is Scripture that has authority, and the tradition has authority only when it is based on Scripture. We need to evaluate and reevaluate the tradition and then emphasize those elements in it that are most solid. In any tradition there are elements that played a significant role because of the needs of the day, but in a few generations no longer seemed meaningful. In every tradition, there are the marks of compromises with the culture. There are things the religious leaders would have liked to have done but which the state would not permit or the people would not support.
A particularly good example of this was the way the Reformers wanted to restore to the church the weekly Communion of the faithful. In Strasbourg Bucer and his colleagues tried to get the whole population of the city to come to one celebration of the Lord’s Supper at the cathedral each Lord’s day. Unfortunately the Reformed pastors of Strasbourg were never able to bring about that reform. A similar thing happened in Geneva. Calvin wanted a weekly celebration of Communion in Geneva. Evidently the faithful, who had been accustomed under the old order to receive Communion but once a year, just could not make that kind of transition, and so quarterly observance became the rule. In Geneva Communion was celebrated only four times a year: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the first Sunday in October. That was an advance over the medieval custom, but before too long, Reformed churches were stuck with a tradition that was not “according to Scripture.” Alexander Campbell tried to set that matter in order at the beginning of the nineteenth century. We need to get back to that reform again.
Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to Scripture (pgs. 135 and 163)