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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

"Why Traditionalism Matters" or "Paved With Good Intentions"

By Larry Beane

The above video shows a bizarre reception of Holy Communion by the girlfriend of a politician, made possible by liturgical anti-traditionalism.

One of the reforms resulting from the Roman Catholic Church's Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was that the rubrics regarding the reception of Holy Communion would change. Instead of kneeling as the priest placed the host on the tongue as had been done for centuries, people would now stand up and receive it in their own hands, in a sense, "communing themselves." This was hailed as a liturgical triumph by those who held tradition in contempt back in the turbulent sixties.

I'm sure that this liturgical change - like all the rest of them - had "good intentions" and seemed like a great idea at the time. Of course, the practice of giving people communion on the tongue had been around for centuries, and was a way of safeguarding the integrity of the sacrament - protecting the Lord's body from abuse - whether accidental or intentional - or even in the name of anti-Christian hatred. There was a very good reason for the tradition to have developed by the Church over many centuries of practice.

And like other Roman Catholic liturgical changes of the radical 1960s, these answers-in-search-of-problems made their way into Vatican-aping churches of the Augsburg Confession.

And so, as a result of the new "more friendly" touchy-feely method of lay-self-communion, it is once again easy to desecrate the Holy Sacrament.

This is the problem with leaving the safe and trodden paths of tradition for untried roads that seem better. Obviously, traditions that deny or obscure the Gospel or contradict Scripture have to go (which includes the pre-1960s denial of the cup to the laity - that was a good change and a restoration of a better and older tradition). But all other things being equal, if communing people orally is a way to diminish and discourage the Lord from being desecrated, what possible argument could anyone make for doing away with it? If after 40 years, it has proven a failure, why is there reticence to go back to tradition?

The way to best safeguard the holy elements is to distribute them in the traditional manner practiced by western Christians for centuries - having the host placed on the tongue and having the blood served orally from a common chalice. And while it is true that a person can smuggle out a consecrated host even when it is placed in the mouth, and while it is true that the blood of Christ can be spilled from a chalice - it is simply more likely that such bizarre behavior as this video above (a repeat of a similar alleged event involving the non-Roman Catholic prime minister of Canada who presented himself for communion and may have pocketed the host (the video is not conclusive and politicians are not particularly known for their candor...) will happen by ignorance or by ignominy.

I honestly don't know what is gained by giving the hosts into the hand. For the life of me, especially in this day and age of rampant disrespect and grandstanding against Christians, what in the world is wrong with placing the Lord's most holy body on the tongue as we have been doing for centuries?

Another possible title for this little reflection: "If it ain't broke..."