Thursday, April 21, 2011

Elevating the Host

Once upon a time, a brother pastor took me to task for lifting up the offering plates after the offering higher than I lifted up the elements of Holy Communion during the consecration -- or for not elevating the host and chalice at all. His position was that by failing to elevate the elements sufficiently I was not holding them in proper reverence and esteem.

This seemed like nonsense to me because the altitude of the host is not what determines a proper attitude of the celebrant or the communicant in the Lord's Supper. Additionally, I didn't want to give the impression to unwitting observers by elevating the host that I was in any way offering it to God as a sacrifice. (There is no sacrifice to God for the forgiveness of sins other than Christ's death on the cross.)

Then, this past week in reviewing the doctrine of the Lord's Supper (since Christ first instituted it on that night when He was betrayed which we now celebrate in the liturgical year as Maundy Thursday), I came across this treatment in Luther. (AE 38:316)

Luther writes:

"Before I would admit to or take upon myself such a guilty conscience, on account of which I would have to drop the elevation because it would make me feel like a murderer, crucifier, and hangman of Christ, I would still today not only retain the elevation but, where one would not be enough, assist in introducing three, seven, or ten elevations.

"Therefore, I wanted to have it regarded as a free choice (even as it is a free matter and must be that), in which no sin could take place, whether one upheld it or dropped it. For this reason the elevation was retained among us. For whatever is free, that is, neither commanded nor prohibited, by which one can neither sin nor obtain merit, this should be in our control as something subject to our reason so that we might employ it or not employ it, uphold it or drop it, according to our pleasure and need, without sinning and endangering our conscience.

"In short, we want to be free lords and not slaves, who can proceed in this matter how, what, where, and when they wish. We do not want to be compelled to abolish the elevation because it is such a grave, great, and horrible sin, as Karlstadt’s spirit wanted it to be; we also do not wish to be forced to retain it because abolishing it would mean the loss of the soul’s salvation, as the pope’s devil wants to have it; but it should mean:

"If you do not want to elevate, then let it lie; if you do not want to let it lie, then elevate it. What does God care about that? What does my conscience care about that? It is as little concerned about that as the altar is concerned about whether you want to elevate something above it or place something on it; both procedures are a matter of indifference to it."

No comments: