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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

High Mass Without Communion, Part Deux (or Del Två)

By Larry Beane

Back in January, this post concerning communion frequency in Sweden as reflected through the pastoral eyes of Bishop Bo Giertz generated a good bit of discussion.  The Rev. Eric Andrae, the Swedish-born LCMS pastor, scholar, author, translator, and president of the International Giertz Society has provided some additional insight, which he has graciously permitted to be published here.  Pastor Andrae is perhaps the world's leading scholar on the life and writings of Bo Giertz.

[Note: for full access to the recently-held conference on Scandinavian Lutheranism held at the St. Catharines Seminary, in which Eric Andrae was one of the speakers, click here - or as they say in Sweden: klicka här.] 

Fr. Andrae writes:

An excerpt from my first essay in A Hammer for God:

Giertz continually stresses the centrality of the Lord’s Supper in the life of the corporate Church, the body of Christ, and bemoans the lack of frequent celebrations in the Church of Sweden: “To where has Communion disappeared?”[1] “The Sunday morning service [högmässa] without communion is and will continue to be...an unsatisfactory expedient emergency measure.”[2] Because of its gifts, Giertz calls for weekly Communion or, at the very least, bi-weekly.[3] “Therefore the Church calls for courageous sons and daughters...so that God can give a stream of life in our devastated congregations and give us a wave of devoted spirituality, which can teach our Swedish people again to experience the Christian mass[4] [mässan] as the soul’s saving meeting with God.”[5] This is what a truly sound “awakening” is: It leads “people into a regular worship life and a faithful use of the sacrament of Communion.”[6]  (49).

An excerpt from Giertz’s Kyrkofromhet:

A service [högmässa] without communion is a drama where the last act is missing.  It is maimed worship [gudstjänst], both from the perspective of history and of a living piety.  To remove communion means to twist the development back to the synagogue’s position, to be satisfied with the service of the Word and abandon that which is Jesus’ own new creation, the genuine Christian sacrament with its deeper fellowship with God and its intimate and fervent experience of Christ. (99).

See also Giertz’s Christ’s Church, chapter 8 on “The New Covenant,” esp., 111-112, 119-121.

Along with Gunnar Rosendal, Giertz was one of the leaders of Kyrkligförnyelse, which sought to renew the liturgical, sacramental, and prayer life of the church.  See Giertz’s reflections as recorded in, again, my first essay in A Hammer for God, 23-25.

Eric R. Andræ, IGS President
16 June 2011

[1] Giertz, Kristi Kyrka, 154, my translation.
[2] Giertz, Kyrkofromhet, 100, my translation.
[3] Giertz desires the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated weekly, but because of the great number of members of one Swedish parish, he states that a sole pastor – in the interest of time - might not be able to commune everyone every week if the number increased dramatically.  See Giertz, Kyrkofromhet, 101. [This footnote does not appear in A Hammer for God.]
[4] Changed translation:  “service” appears in A Hammer for God.
[5] Giertz, Kyrkofromhet, 102, my translation.
[6] Giertz, Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening, 30.  Olof Herrlin, Bishop of Visby 1962 – 1980, adds that “the liturgy itself can awaken people.  Since God’s word is active within it, from the Introit to the Benediction, it possesses the power of the word to seize, to arrest, to regenerate” (Divine Service: Liturgy in Perspective, trans. Gene J. Lund [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966], 24).