Indifference is not characteristic of the liturgy
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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Signs of Reverence at the Consecration

This week's poll asks about the signs of reverence that accompany the Consecration at your congregation.

Gottesdienst has long advocated the ancient practice of elevation and genuflection after each consecration - I'm sure our resident medievalist and Editor-in-Chief will, as is his wont, chime in with the story of how that got started in the Church. But however it got started, this ceremony is a remedy to today's cultural default setting of lack of reverence and awe.

In speaking with seminary classmates and other pastors at conferences and so forth, I find that these ceremonies (along with the celebrant communicating himself) have only the removal of the Battle Flag of the Republic from the Sanctuary to rival them for controversy and consternation in the parish. Tragically, the problem often gets worse with the more teaching a pastor does. That is to day, the consternation this reverence toward the Sacrament causes many Lutherans today stems not from a misunderstanding of the ceremony but from understanding it perfectly well.

"It's too Catholic," a member of the Antigenuflecting Society of Dies Irae Lutheran Church might say.

"Well," responds Pastor Schickelgrüber, "it's simply an expression of the fact that we really believe that what is on the altar is really the Body and Blood of Jesus."

"Aha! I told you it was too Catholic! Panolater!"

OK, nobody has every said "panolater" to me, but you get the point.

But don't be too put off by this, dear pastor - it is an opportunity to do some real shepherding of the sheep. Your reverence at the altar and your preaching on the Sacrament will lead folks to ask questions and you will get to explain more and increase their understanding of this great Mystery. Every once in a while, even one of the shouters of Too Catholic will come around (some, of course, never will).

But it is incumbent upon our generation to do this teaching - of this I am convinced. The conversations I've had with active, lifelong, faithful, pious, Midwestern Lutherans on this topic almost always include a statement along these lines, "Huh. Pastor Soandso never talked like that in my confirmation class. . ."

Perhaps it was the infrequent communion, the Protestantizing influence of integrating into English-speaking American society, or the rampant receptionism taught in Missouri Synod seminaries in the mid-twentieth century - but my impression is that many of our parishes were simply not well catechized on what the Sacrament is. I, at any rate, have encountered more than a few lifelong Lutherans who had an essentially Presbyterian view of the Supper.

And here's your deep thought for today. Have you ever noticed how some of the communion hymns in our hymnals are in Presbyterian hymnals and others are in Roman Catholic hymnals? Would we be better off to toss out all the hymns that a Presbyterian could sing with a clear conscience? I think so. Would we be better off tossing out all the hymns that a Roman Catholic could sing with a clear conscience? I think not.

Too Catholic, again, I suppose. . .

Pr. H. R.19 Comments