Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Roundtable 23: Various Abuses Corrected -- Communion under Both Kinds

The Augsburg Confession concludes its presentation on various doctrinal points and moves into a presentation on the "various abuses" that have been "corrected" by the Lutherans. Obviously, these "abuses," as the Lutherans refer to them, struck a very raw nerve among Roman Catholic theologians and princes. The topics dealt with in this section of the Augsburg Confession are, in the following order: both kinds in the Sacrament, the marriage of priests, the Mass, Confession, the distinction of meats, monastic vows and church authority.

The section on the correction of abuses begins with this prefatory explanation:

1] Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience. 2] Nor should Your Imperial Majesty believe those who, in order to excite the hatred of men against our part, disseminate strange slanders among the people. 3] Having thus excited the minds of good men, they have first given occasion to this controversy, and now endeavor, by the same arts, to increase the discord. 4] For Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious men represent. 5] Besides, the truth cannot be gathered from common rumors or the revilings of enemies. 6] But it can readily be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.

One could say that the "abuses corrected" are in fact the "flash points" of the Reformation, where the implications of the Gospel recovery that took place in the 16th century were most noticeable and dramatically apparent: laity receiving both the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, priests being married, no more mandatory or forced confession, monasticism abolished, forced fasts ended, etc.

Here however Lutheranism also reveals itself as a reformation, not a revolution, for unlike the fanatics, Anabaptists and the emerging Reformed movements, Lutheranism does not do away with ceremonies and practices, but corrects abuses associated with them, and observes them rightly. Hence, priests are not required to be celibate, but may marry, or remain unmarried. Fasting is not abolished, but not required by way of meriting grace. The historic form of the communion liturgy, the Mass, as it came to be called, is not ended, but reformed and the Gospel restored to its heart and center, and so forth.

And so we begin with the correction of the error of Rome in withholding from the laity the Lord's blood, under the wine. How did this error develop? When did it develop? It was, relatively speaking, a recent innovation by the 16th century. Up until the twelfth century, in both Eastern and Western Churches, the cup was given to the laity. The Council of Lambeth in 1281 forbid the laity from receiving the cup. When this practice became universal is hard to say, but by the time of the Reformation the laity did not receive the consecrated wine. It was particularly at the Council of Constance in 1416 that communion under both kinds was abolished, John Hus, was burned at the stake for, among other things, advocating communion under both kinds. You can read a good overview of the Roman perspective on this issue at the New Advent site. In an astounding coincedence of history, Martin Luther took his monastic vows at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt, Germany, lying prostate on the tomb of the Catholic Cardinal who had served as Huss' chief judge at the Council of Constance.

There developed in Romanism anemically foolish argument that since the blood of Christ is surely also given under the consecrated bread, with His body, that receiving the bread is "enough" for the laity. This theory, known as concomitance, is a silly philosophical excuse for violating the clear Word of Christ and His command: take and drink, all of you. Reasons for withholding the cup from the laity developed ex post facto and even today when read strike the objective reader as wholly absurd, lacking in any meaningful Biblical foundation. Vatican II in the 1960s reversed the Roman practice of refusing the cup to the laity, and while still communion under one kind is permitted and practiced, communion under both kinds is now commonplace in many Roman parishes.

But at the time of the Reformation, the Lutherans insistence on offering the Lord's Supper, whole and inviolate, to the laity: both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine, was regarded as an act of open rebellion against Roman rule of the Church.


William Weedon said...

Perhaps we should not let the conclusion of the first half or the intro to the abuses section go by without comment. Both are huge testimonies to the catholic character of the AC and so the Churches which are committed to this great Symbol of the faith.

"As can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church universal, or from the Church of Rome, as known by its writers. Since this is the case, those who insist that our teachers are to be regarded as heretics are judging too harshly." (Conclusion 1)

A while back, Pastor McCain posted a rather excellent article from First Things where the author posited this very thing. He was RC and yet not prepared to use the term heretics for the Lutherans, and argued in fact that the Lutherans carried off with them (we'd express that differently!) an essential part of the Western Church's patrimony and that this has damaged the Church of Rome. Our response to such a thing? Well, something like: THAT'S WHAT WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU!!!

Another interesting thing in the conclusion is that "in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed among us." (par. 4) Lutherans were depicted by the extreme Romanists as being devoid of the ceremonies instituted in ancient time and this was not true. Lutherans need to honestly ask themselves at all times if we can make the same statements with the clarity of conscience the Confessors could!

The abuse section is said mostly to deal with "newer abuses." And it is quite interesting how many of the abuses detailed were "newer" and not in evidence in the ancient undivided church and how many also were not in evidence in the Eastern Church then or now.

Through the entire close of section I and intro to section II, the stress is laid upon "nothing new" and "same old catholic and apostolic faith" and what gets junked and must get junked is anything that obscures the free gift of forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus.

Paul T. McCain said...

Thanks, Pastor Weedon. I was a bit unsure how to handle the conclusion of the AC proper and the introduction of the "Abuses corrected" section, since they are not numbered, per se.

So, I appreciate you drawing our attention more specifically to them.

The principle enunciate in the AC, and the attitude it reflects toward awareness of the historic church catholic, wherever and whenever is is, is key to understanding the nature of the "conservative Reformation" as C.P.Krauth enunciates it in his classic work: "The Conservative Reformation and It's Theology."

Thanks Bill.

William Weedon said...

I wonder what Luther would say if he saw the current practice of not only the Cup, but also the CUPS, being given to the laity? I bring it up because the administration of the chalice has always been a bit of a difficulty and the individual cups are merely the latest in a long string of attempts to deal with how to have a larger crowd receive our Lord's Blood.

One of the Lutheran Church orders, for instance (see Herl's *Worship Wars*) instructs the pastors to tell the people to stop bringing their straws (no doubt glass ones!) to the Lord's Supper. The Orthodox spoon is another example of how the problem could be solved. I am myself a believer in the preferred use of the chalice alone, but it is noted by many folks that in a parish the size of St. Paul's, we actually are not drinking from one cup, but form one flagon!

William Weedon said...

P.S. I believe that Wybrew notes that at Chrysostom's time the chalice was likewise sipped from by straws - did I remember that correctly, Jay?

Paul T. McCain said...

The best solution to those who perceive individual cups as a problem is to use a chalice with a pouring lips. I've seen this done very reverently at a congregation in Michigan that pours from the common cup into small chalices held by the members.

The fact that we long ago in the West did not find it troubling no longer to use "one loaf" leads me to be not so much concerned about the use of individual cups.

It's what inside the cup that counts, after all.

William Weedon said...

Now you've tempted me to tell a story. I can't vouch for its truthfulness. Heard it third or fourth hand.

Jensen was distributing at Gettysburg and an old prof was there who brought forward his cup. Jensen was saying: "The blood of Christ, shed for you... The blood of Christ, shed for you..." then he reached this old prof. He hesitated and poured out some of our Lord's blood from the pouring chalice and said: "There." Onto the next person: "The blood of Christ, shed for you..."

Jensen will have to forgive me if it is apocryphal, but it has cracked me up for years!

Of course, WHAT is in the chalice and the individual cups is our Lord's blood. No question there. The question that arises is what best confesses that reality which Paul can describe as "eating from one loaf and drinking from one cup"? When we think of the Sacraments as "visible words" (a la our Symbols) we realize that HOW we administer them can communicate in an unspoken fashion what we believe concerning them. There is room here for Christian freedom, of course, but the exercise of such freedom is always best done in the boundaries of asking: what practice best confesses our teaching and belief about this action?

William Weedon said...

By the way, a few practical points on the chalice:

1. Women, please blot your lipstick before drinking from the chalice.
2. Pastors, please hold the purificator beneath the chin of the communicant to catch any inadvertent spills as they commune and then use it to wipe the rim of the cup.
3. People, people feel free to assist in guiding the chalice to your lips.
4. All, don't forget the most neglected rubric in LSB: to say "Amen!" to the gift of both our Lord's body and blood!

Paul T. McCain said...

And, please do not tuck your head down so low we can't find your mouth.

And, ladies, dress modestly so as not to reveal more of yourself to your pastor than is appropriate. Sorry to mention this, but...it is true.

Mike Baker said...

From the layman side of the rail:

If you are administering the chalice and I grasp the cup or touch your hands to help guide the rim to my mouth, please do not be surprised. DO NOT LET GO! DO NOT HAND IT TO ME!

We are trying to prevent a tragedy here and the best way to do that is to make sure that my clumsy hands never hold the chalice by myself.

If I lift up my hands, I have no intention of taking the cup from you. I am just helping. Please keep a white-knuckeled grip and I promise that I will not be offended at all.

William Weedon said...

Amen, Mike! The key is for the pastor to always hold the knob of the chalice tightly and allow the laity to guide the tipping of the chalice.

Josh Schröder said...

Pastor Weedon, where are commandments 5-10? I'm not saying these things are adiaphora; nor am I saying that I disagree with any of them. Maybe what I'm saying is that lists have the appearance of laws to follow or principles for christian living. You couldn't come up with six more to round out a good Biblical number?

I'll volunteer a portion of raw creativity which you can use to hammer out some more communion rules:

A) Women, please refrain from plunging necklines. Your modesty at the communion rail is appreciated, especially by those near the altar who aren't kneeling. (I wrote this on my blog before McCain left this comment.)

B) As follow up to Commandment 3, communion assistants will measure their common cup performance by two criteria: teeth clanks and nose dunks. The lower the score, the better. For everyone involved.

C) Individual cups are not shot glasses; you don't need to throw your head back and chug the Blood.

D) It's okay to cross yourself.

E) It's okay to bring children to the rail to receive a blessing.

F) Children, it's okay to come up to the rail and receive a blessing.

That's all I've got off the top of my head. Maybe something about whether pastors should or should not attempt to sing Communion hymns while one table is leaving and the other is approaching?

William Weedon said...


Lists are definitely of the law. ;) The Gospel is not a list.

BUT in the spirit of the game, we could add a couple more too to get the number from law (10) to Gospel (12):

g) If you're sporting a Matt Harrison stache, remember that the person administering the cup can't see WHEN you've received our Lord's blood. Either trim it up or in your hands guide the cup!

h) Please, please, please don't make the pastor ask what that thing sticking through your tongue is when you open your mouth!

Mike Baker said...

Here let me add another one to our list:

XIII. If you are in a district that is in a major urban center where each of your dozen or so churches has decided that Christ's Holy Supper is not important enough to celebrate every Sunday, try to coordinate with each other so that at least one of your congregations is gathering around the Lord's Table each week. You don't know when I am going to be in your area.

I'm running out of churches on the Congregation Locator for August 26th!

Some of you take the even Sundays and some of you take the odd Sundays, please. This way visiting brothers and sisters from other parts of the synod can Commune without violating the Army's 25 mile off-post travel radius while they are on duty.

wm cwirla said...

Here's something fun to discuss under this article.

What about those who, for one reason or another, cannot (not will not) receive wine? My practice is to administer the Lord's Supper to them under one kind, though always stopping before them with the chalice saying, "The Blood of Christ shed for you," to carefully denote that it is not being withheld.

I do this because I find the "alternative beverage route (ie grape juice, near-wine, dealcoholized wine) to be a violation of the one cup.

William Weedon said...

Yup. Same practice here. Just the wine that is our Lord's blood. If someone cannot receive (and I have a few), they are content with our Lord's body and know that His blood is also "for you, for the forgiveness of sins."

wm cwirla said...

Great (and orthodox) minds run along the same road, I see. Glad to know I'm not alone.

My general rule on alternative beverages: If you can't do it with one cup, you can't do it with many cups.

John Wurst said...

Pastors McCain and Weedon,

I know this post is older but I have a question that may be considered under the various abuses -- Communion under both kinds.

My question concerns Trinity Octave. My research has found that this was an obligated (I do believe) celebration call Corpus Christi.

This celebration was on Thursday following The Feast of the Holy Trinity.

Is this something that the Reformers abolished?

Is this some sort of festival that could be used on Trinity 1 and if so, what readings would be used? Are there any Rubrics that go with this? Is this a Feast, Festival, or what is it called?

Thank you for your assistance.



Paul McCain said...

John, the best advice I would offer you is simply follow our church's hymnal: say the black, do the red. I would not be concerned about trying to follow other rubrics, schedules or festivals. I would steer clear of festivals associated with particularly great abuses, like Corpus Christi.