Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rome Changing to the Lutheran Order

This was reported by the Eternal Word News and comes from Rome:

Rome, Italy, Mar 8, 2012 / 03:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo said he is delighted to have first-hand papal approval for changing the order by which children in his diocese receive the sacraments

“I was very surprised in what the Pope said to me, in terms of how happy he was that the sacraments of initiation have been restored to their proper order of baptism, confirmation then first Eucharist,” said Bishop Aquila, after meeting Pope Benedict on March 8.

Over the past seven years the Diocese of Fargo has changed the typical order of the sacraments of initiation. Instead of confirmation coming third and at an older age, it is now conferred on children at a younger age and prior to First Communion.  Bishop Aquila said he made the changes because “it really puts the emphasis on the Eucharist as being what completes the sacraments of initiation” and on confirmation as “sealing and completing baptism.”

Of course, we Lutherans have typically followed the order of baptism, confirmation, and first communion for a very long time -- though we must be care not to infuse the Roman understanding of these sacraments upon Lutherans.  Lutherans do not believe that confirmation completes baptism in any way or that confirmation is a sacrament.  I am not (Terry, are you listening) speaking to the theology of the sacraments but to the order of reception only.

For a couple of generations we have been moving toward first communion before and separate from confirmation and now we Lutherans find that Rome is moving toward the order which was once our familiar sequence.  Since it was Rome's practice of first communion that encouraged Lutherans in the first place (although Luther was never a fan of confirmation and Lutherans reclaimed this rite more out of romance than theology), will we Lutherans now begin to rethink our change and move back to the original pattern familiar to several hundred years of Lutheranism?

The one thing that I find odd in this is that it means that catechism is going to be taught to a much younger generation of children in the Roman dioceses where this change is being introduced and I am not sure how it is possible to do the same depth of instruction to children in say first through third grades as you might do to those in middle school.  In fact one of the real dangers of moving instruction ever earlier is that the instruction itself is somewhat lacking in the depth that was once expected of both Lutherans and Roman Catholics when catechism took place a few years later.  Certainly this presents a new challenge.

My only point to posting this is to show that we in Lutheranism have often seen Rome as the monolithic rock that barely changes and so we second guess our own positions in comparison.  Now we find Rome moving closer to the Lutheran sequence and it will inevitably raise the question of whether we should change with them.  I can think of arguments for and against the change and find myself even less certain of what I think is best the more I study the whole order in which catechism and first communion (hopefully including private confession) is administered among us Lutherans. 


Terry Maher said...

The RCC does not hold confirmation as we do, as you note, and yes I note that you note that. For that matter, communion itself is not entirely held the same between us and them.

Since the two sacraments, one of them not even a sacrament in our understanding, are not the same, what does it matter if Rome moves different things travelling under the same name to our once customary order?

Chris said...

Horrible, horrible move on the part of Rome. One of the things which always caused me to shake my head was the Lutheran belief of denying the holy Eucharist to anyone baptized in the church before the age of Confirmation. If someone who has been baptized into Christ has put on Christ, then why deny them the very means by which strengthens the Christian in the daily life? Rome moving towards Wittneberg in this particular scenario is neither good nor beneficial especially for the young faithful Roman Catholics.

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that you need confirmation class in order to understand communion and how it relates to the other parts of the faith.

William Tighe said...

This is merely a reversion to what was the normal and universal practice of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church before the pontificate of Pius X (1903-1914). Lutherans kind of inherited that order, although some Lutheran churches, such as that of Denmark-Norway, abolished it at the Reformation, and did not "revive" it until the 18th Century.

Chris said...

& Anonymous:

Does anyone really "understand" communion whether by itself or how it relates to other aspects of the faith? No. The Eucharist is not some abstract ideal to be contemplated, it is a mystery (sacrament hardly does it justice). That would be like requiring everyone to know the science of digestion and the Krebs Cycle and ATP before one was allowed to eat any food at all!

All God's people who are baptized into the faith should be given the Eucharist unless they are conscious of any grave sin. Granted, babies do not have knowledge of such things. But to deny them the mysteries which are to be a rampart and bulwark and protection is ridiculous AND harmful.

Pastor Peters said...

Once again, Terry completely missed my point. He often complains that Lutherans follow Rome without thinking. Here I was merely pointing out that Lutheran angst over Rome and first communion resulted in a change to the typical Lutheran sequence and maybe we had it better before we followed Rome.

There is a certain logic to baptism, catechism/confirmation, confession, and communion and this was, as Dr. Tighe points out, the usual order for many a long time in the church.

I have felt somewhat caught in the middle between early communion and instruction which utilizes the resources of mature thought that do not come until the high school years. I have expressed this here before...