Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Apart from a rather dense and elaborate nexus of liturgical and congregational gestures, words, practices, and so on, how do Christian people show that they believe in [something like the] real presence?"

     "The observable differences in Catholic and Lutheran practice raise the question whether the Lutheran lex orandi, their liturgical instantiation of the presumed reality of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in his body and blood, adequately reflects what Lutherans say they believe about 'real presence.'  Apart from a rather dense and elaborate nexus of liturgical and congregational gestures, words, practices, and so on, how do Christian people show that they believe in real presence?  As Martin Luther himself once remarked, 'it is good that the Sacrament of the Altar is honored with bended knees; for the true body and blood of the Lord are there, likewise the presence of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the Word of God, which should be heard reverently.  For God works there, and the Lord shows Himself.'  It has become increasingly rare today to find Lutherans whose practices vigorously enact real presence, which suggests at a minimum a disconnect between 'official theology' and church practice, and, at worse, a de facto eucharistic memorialismcreeping Zwinglianism, if you willthat contradicts official theological statements to the contrary.  Granted that Lutheans reject, as do Orthodox, tabernacling or processing the consecrated host.  Still, one wonders, where is the piety that reflects the Lutheran teaching?  And granted even further that that all our churches struggle with aspects of ecclesial practice that seem to betray the faith we confess, still one must ask:  Why does the Lutheran liturgical lex orandi so often seem to contradict their lex credendi?  At the risk of being accused of uncharitably airing out the Lutheran family's dirty laundry, which I do not at all intend to do, I would note that in my own experience as a representative of the Lutheran churches I once looked on in horror as our Orthodox ecumenical partners observed a Lutheran pastor throwing out the 'leftovers' (i.e. consecrated wine) after a Lutheran Eucharist.  Again, all of us have experiences within our churches that seem to contradict our churches' most deeply held, and ecumenically trumpeted, convictions.  But this one, which is in my experience common, is a particularly egregious example. . . . [I]t stands as a warning to all of us, reminding us that we must be ever vigilant to guard the integrity of our traditions, lex orandi et lex credendi."

     Mickey L. Mattox, "Catholic 'Church,' Lutheran 'Community'?," in Mickey L. Mattox, A. G. Roeber, and Paul R. Hinlicky, Changing churches:  an Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran theological conversation (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 146-146 (112-153).  The words of Luther occur at Lectures on Genesis 47:31 (LW 8, 145; WA 44, 685).
     I am ignorant of the niceties of the Lutheran doctrine of persistence.  Presumably "The usus or actio (that is, the practice or administration)" (Formula of concord, Solid declaration VII, 86) is not already over by this point of "disposal"?
     Cf. Taft:  "In the far more modern and sophisticated twentieth-century United States I have heard tales (but not myself witnessed) abuses in Roman Catholic parishes that would turn one's hair gray:  poorly trained communion ministers and even priests who dump what is left of the consecrated hosts not used for Holy Communion at Mass back into the container of unconsecrated hosts in the sacristy, or worse, fill up the ciborium from that container of unconsecrated hosts if they run out of consecrated hosts for Holy Communion at Mass!" (Robert F. Taft, SJ, FBA, "'Communion' from the Tabernaclea liturgico-theological oxymoron," Worship 88, no. 1 (January 2014):  19n63 (2-22)).
     Sitting right up front during an extremely crowded and busy Midnight Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church in Eugene one Christmas Eve a few years ago, my wife was startled to hear the celebrant stop a man who had started to walk away with the host in his hand, and demand in no uncertain terms that it be consumed right then and there on the spot.  I'm not sure that she would have been justified in expecting such a reaction from just any Episcopalian.
     Cf. the successful lawsuit filed by Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City.

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