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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Liturgical Etymology I


Ed. note: Along the lines of Fr. Eckardt's Why? booklet explaining the parts of the liturgy, the Gottesdienst Online editors will be posting, in serialized fashion, explanations of words related to Christian worship - especially those of obscure derivation.

Host

Once the wafer or loaf has been consecrated in a celebration of the Lord's Supper it is referred to as the host (beforehand it is altar bread, or simply bread). This term can be confusing to modern ears - perhaps calling to mind the relationship between parasite and host: as if the bread "plays host" to the Body of Christ; as if it were infected with the Body of our Lord. Mh; gevnoito! Although Lutherans have historically dabbled in such crass and clumsy "consubstantiationism," surely we are better off to leave theorizing about how the Lord does his miracles to the angels (or to the man from Aquino).

In reality the latter usage (about host and parasite) derives from Latin hospes (guest-friend; Greek xevnoV), while the Ecclesiastical term derives from the Latin hostia, meaning victim or sacrifice.

Obviously, the development of host from hostia in the Latin speaking West is entangled with Medieval theories of the Mass as a sacrifice offered up by the priest. Nevertheless, the term has widespread use in Lutheran liturgical books down to the present day. Therefore, an evangelical understanding should be given to the term: what was once and for all sacrificed at Calvary is in reality upon the paten and in the mouths of all who receive this host. Indeed, an even stronger usage displayed in many Lutheran liturgical books (E.g. LSB p. 199) follows the example of the Small Catechism in simply referring to the host solely as the body of Christ.

+HRC
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