Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Practice Consistent with Our Faith

This morning I read Elizabeth Scalia on her blog on First Things called The Anchoress and was once again impressed with the sensibility of this woman and her commentary on the practices of the faithful...

Yesterday at Mass, my husband noticed that on the floor of our pew, by our feet, was a quarter of an unconsumed Host. He picked it up and consumed it.

Discussing it on the way home, my husband chose to think the best, not the worst. “Maybe [at a previous Mass] the wedge was part of Consecration Host, and it somehow got picked up with another one and missed, or dropped onto a sweater, or something.”

My husband is always quick to think the best, especially when a matter is too troubling to consider, otherwise. We don’t want to think the worst, that someone simply threw the Blessed Sacrament on the floor, or had casually nibbled at the Host, as though it were a cookie – although such things do, sadly, happen.  Nevertheless it brought home to us, again, the reasonableness of receiving the Eucharist by mouth, rather than by hand.

Ms. Scalia is a perceptive individual but her comments are not merely reflective of the practice of the Roman Catholic faith.  What she and her husband saw and the reaction of her husband was entirely consistent with and consonant with the faith and practice of Dr. Martin Luther.  Sadly, it is not the ordinary practice of those who call themselves Lutherans today...

That which is believed is either confirmed in the practice of the believer or contradicted by practice.  In the case of Lutherans, we have a history and heritage of reverence and devotion to the sacred species of the Sacrament that has distinct implications for our practice.  Luther once took a hatchet to wood that was stained with the blood of Christ from a chalice spill.  He was known to take to task and raise holy hell with those who treated consecrated hosts as unconsecrated and vica versa.  He came down consistently on the side of consecrating only what is though to be needed for the Supper and for the consumption of all that remains (though Lutherans debate where this must take place immediately within or after the Communion or later in distribution to the sick or others not at the Eucharist).  But, again, such is not the regular and normal practice of Lutherans today...

I have been a communicant at parish Eucharists and circuit winkels in which the host box was overflowing with hosts -- far in excess of the number of communicants present or even possible in that setting.  I shuddered to think what happened to that which remained (the reliquae).  Stacks and stacks of trays of individual cups adorn the altar just in case and what happens to that which has been set aside with the Word of Christ and prayer?  Who knows?!  We have much to clean up in our practices...

In both parishes where I have served, I have taught the Altar Guild to individual cleanse every individual cup which has been drunk from and at the altar I have the assisting minister pour the contents of each unused individual cup back into the cruet and then the Altar Guild cleanses those as they would the ones used by a communicant.  This has naturally made most members of the Altar Guild less than thrilled by the continuance of the individual cups (which are used less and less each passing year without my words to encourage but only the faithful practice to point to the better choice).

As an aside, I was told by a seminary professor that he used the toilet off the vestry to take care of what was left from the Sacrament... Granted this was going on 40 years ago and things have changed but the shock of this admission has continued to stand as a warning marker against practices unfaithful with our Confession.

It has been my practice to carefully wipe all the crumbs of the paten and ciborium into the chalice and then consume all the remains of the chalice at the altar (during the final hymn or post-communion canticle).  When spills take place, and they seem always to happen despite our care and diligence, we react immediately.  The congregation has seen me pick up a dropped host and consume it.  The people at the rail and in the pew have watched me drop to the floor and cleanse a spill with the purificator (an extra one is on the altar for just such occasion). 

Ms. Scalia and her husband instinctively knew what to do with a piece of a host they found on the floor.  Ick... some might think... but piety trumps this consideration every time.  Would Lutherans know to do this?  Would they act in an instinctive way as did these Roman Catholics?  We should.  Our faith and the practice of the Reformers would expect us to act in this manner when faced with such a circumstance.  If our people do not think this way, it is perhaps the tip of the iceberg toward an understanding of the presence of Christ in the host and cup that are in violation with our Confession.... Just something to think about. . .


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

As you know - I disagee.

Unknown said...

I have done this myself. Being a member of an Altar Guild I am all to aware of the mixing of consecrated and non-consecrated elements. Our congregation installed a piscina by the Sacristy. We rinse all the individual cups following communion as well as the Flagon and Chalice in a large bowl and this water is also poured into the piscina. Things are better but there is always room for improvement.

Anonymous said...

Once the elements are consecrated at
the altar, it only becomes the body
and blood of Christ when it is
consumed by the communicant. If you
drop a waver, then you have not
dropped the body of Christ. This
is the difference between the Real
Presence and Roman Catholic Transub
stantatiation A RC priest would only
believe he has dropped the body of
Christ, not a Lutheran pastor.

Pastor Peters said...

Drop a "waver" Hmmmmm

You may want to check further... Luther in the Large Catechism quotes the Augustine axiom: “If the Word be joined to the elements, it becomes a Sacrament.” Or from the Formula of Concord: E VII, 6: We believe, teach and confess that in the Holy Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present, and are truly distributed and received with the bread and wine.”

SD VII, 76: “The words are spoken by the mouth of the priest, but by God’s power and grace, by the Word, when He speaks ‘This is my body,’ the elements presented are consecrated in the Supper” (Quotation from Chrysostom).

SD VII, 77: “His command and institution have this power and effect that we administer and receive not mere bread and wine, but His body and blood.”

Luther says: "Therefore we shall define the time of the sacramental action in this way: That is starts with the beginning of the Word of our Lord (Verba) and lasts until all have communed, have emptied the chalice, have consumed the Hosts, until the people have been dismissed (benediction) and the priests have left the altar..."

If it take reception for Christ to be present, then His presence is conditional upon our action and not accomplished by His Word. Further, the Pastor is repeating nonsense when he distributes the host "The body of Christ" and the cup "The blood of Christ."

You need to read Bjarne Teigen's wonderful book "The Lord's Supper."

Anonymous said...

A Summary of Christian Doctrine by
Edward Koehler (Professor at
Concordia, River Forest} 1952 Edition
"We have no Biblical ground to assume
that the bread is the body of Christ
before we eat it. Contrary to Roman
Catholic opinion, bread and wine,
though consecrated, are not the body
and blood of Christ, if they be not
eaten and drunk, or if the bread fall
on the floor or the wine is spilled."
page 219

Anonymous said...

So by what power is it body? Your action to receive? No. The bread is body once the power of Jesus speaking "This IS my body." Jesus says so, good enough for me. Trust the efficacy of Scripture, power of the Word and it is what Jesus says it is. A receptionist view is a later innovation on the Supper (like individual cups), not held by the Church fathers, or Lutheran fathers. Pieper and Koehler were wrong on this.

Anonymous said...

In the words of institution, Jesus
said: "TAKE EAT, this is my body."
Jesus implies that the bread becomes
His body when the bread is eaten
and therefore the Sacramental union
is only achieved when the bread is
eaten. Robert Preus called Pieper
the greatest theologian of the
Lutheran Church in the 20th century
and this is what Pieper believed and
his dogmatic textbooks are in our
seminary courses at both sems of LCMS

Anonymous said...

The so-called "receptionist view"
is not on par with the adiaphora of
individual cups. The early Church
fathers were all Roman Catholics so
they would naturally opt for the
transubstantiation view rather than
the real presence view. Our Lutheran
heritage supports the "receptionist"
view of the Sacrament.

Anonymous said...

I would rather agree with Luther and the BOC on this issue. So when Jesus said "This is My body" he really meant to say, "this isn't my body yet but soon will be"?

Also too, the non-receptionist Lutheran view is what the early church held. The current Roman view as it is now defined was Council of Trent 1551. Early and Medieval church theologians were more Lutheran than Roman on this.

Anonymous said...

So if I give my keys to my kid, and say, "take and drive, this is the key to my car." It's not my car unless my kid is driving it? My words of authority declare it to be my car and it is. Just like with Jesus.

Anonymous said...

"Robert Preus called..." that's great, he was a giant too, and Pieper is still wrong on this issue. Pieper has been shown to be weak on several portions of the dogmatics.

Pastor Peters said...

The great fallacy among the Lutheran receptionists is that there was no debate about the presence of Christ in the bread and wine through the Word of Christ, so that what was distributed is the Body of Christ and His Blood. The concern of the Reformers was the consecration when there was no reception. Besides, read what Luther and the Lutherans say about the Adoration of Christ in the Eucharist -- either they are suggesting that we worship bread and wine or they are affirming the once and present truth that what the Word of Christ says is what it makes it -- My Body given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins and My blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of your sins...

The sacramental ACTION is not complete until the distribution and reception but this is another matter entirely and one which receptionists cling to as the basis for rejecting that the Word does its work and gives to us the Body of Christ and His Blood in and with the bread and wine.

Koehler and Pieper, were great enough but not perfect. I am pretty sure from his writings and association with Bjarne Teigen, Tom Hardt, and others that Robert Preus was not a receptionist. I am appalled at how rampant this view is among Lutherans and this is the reason for my post...