Everything is Concluded with the Giving of Thanks
It is great fun when one is looking something up for one purpose, something completely different is stumbled upon. I had this experience today reading Chemnitz: The Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, Section III Concerning the Mass. Chemnitz is responding to Trent’s Canon VI “If anyone says that the canon of the Mass contains errors and should therefore be abrogated, let him be anathema.” He argues that this canon and the papalist claims are “fog and nonsense” and is able to quote various Church Fathers to help prove his case.
What became so interesting to me were the quotes he offers and their descriptions of the Divine Service. Here are his introductory remarks, the quotes, and then I’ll chime in.
[I]t is useful to know the history of antiquity with respect to the prayers which were customary in the liturgies or in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. For from this many things can be judged when we compare on the one hand the papalist canon and on the other the freedom with which prayers of this kind have been rightly used in our churches according to the analogy of faith.
Justin says, Apologia, 2, that after the reading and interpretation of Scripture all rise for prayer and that, when the prayers are ended, bread and wine are brought to the overseer in order that he may begin the action of the Lord’s Supper. And in this action he makes mention of praise and glorification through prayers, and of thanksgiving. When these are ended the people assent, saying, “Amen”. “After the Communion,’ he says, “we admonish one another to love and fraternal union; we also give alms by which the needy are aided. And over that which is so offered we bless the Father, the Maker of all things, through the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
In Ireneus, Bk. 4, these offerings for the poor with thanksgiving for the gift precede the action of the Lord’s Supper, “for from these gifts from the firstfruits of the fruits of the earth there is taken that which through the words of Christ receives the call to be the body and blood of Christ.”
According to Dionysius, prayers and readings of the sacred books are made, and then the catechumens, the possessed, and the penitent are commanded to go out. After that the bread and the cup are brought forward and the sacred prayer is made. After this there follows the sacred Communion, which ends with the giving of thanks.”
Augustine, Letter No. 59, to Paulinus, as he explains the words of Paul in 1 Tim. 2:1, about “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving thanks,” says that in the celebration of the sacraments prayers are made before that which on the table of the Lord begins to be blest; thereafter prayers are made while it is blest, consecrated, and broken and prepared for distribution; that an interruption is made when people are blessed before Communion; and after Communion, he says, everything is concluded with the giving of thanks.
Chrysostom says, Homily 18, on 2 Corinthians: “First, common prayers are made by the priest and the people. Second, when those have been excluded who cannot be present at the mysteries, another prayer is made. Third, peace is pronounced on those who are to be communed. Fourth, it all ends with the giving of thanks.
Therefore, in the liturgies of the ancients: 1. Prayers were made before they began to bless what was on the table of the Lord; 2. They had certain prayers during the blessing, consecration, and preparation of the bread and the cup of the Lord; 3. Afer the consecration but before Communion a blessing or peace was given to the people who were to communicate; 4. After Communion the whole action was concluded with the giving of thanks.
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent: Part II, Trans. by Fred Kramer. Concordia Publishing House, 1978, pp.510-512
Chemnitz’s summary points were eye-opening to me as they relate what the ancients did in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper how it is in essence no different from what Confessional and Liturgical Lutheran Congregations do today. Before the Sacrament, we pray. We have certain prayers that we pray during the celebration of the Sacrament, most importantly the Our Father. After the consecration the Pax Domini is a vital part of the celebration, in particular as it is the giving of a blessing to those who will be receiving the Verty Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. One may also note how closed communion was practiced in the ancient Church. The peace is upon those who will be communing, in true, repentant faith receiving the mysteries, while others are excluded from the communion. And finally “Everything is concluded with the giving of thanks, just as we do today, “Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and His mercy endureth forever!” (Psalm 107:1)
Reading Chemnitz today helped me be thankful for this great Lutheran Father, but also for our Lutheran Liturgy. In what we say and do, according to the analogy of faith, we are tied to the true and living God, His gifts, and His people who have gone before us. The saints of old are giving thanks even now for the gifts God gave them in the Divine Service, through His dear Son, by the Holy Spirit. Through the Gospel and the Sacraments they are living right now and offering unending thanksgiving. We do well to follow their example: to pray the prayers we have received to the true and living God, to have a clear confession of the true faith by our sound practices grounded in the doctrine of the Scriptures, to be joined to the believers of old by living and receiving the gifts of God like they did - concluding everything with the giving of thanks. You simply can’t beat the liturgy. It is Biblical. It is catholic. It is Lutheran. Through it, we receive the gifts of God. In it, we admonish one another to be Christians. From it, we live a life of faith and holy love and in everything, continually give thanks.