I had a question posed to me from our Church's website about the practice of the elevation, that is lifting up the Lord's body and then genuflecting before it; and then our Lord's blood and genuflecting before it. The young man wanted to know a bit about the origin and meaning of this ceremony. I thought it would be worthwhile to share my answer:
Where the Lutherans continued the elevation it had the meaning of a confession of the real presence of our Lord's body and blood. Dr. Luther spoke of it this way: "We do not want to abolish the elevation because it goes so well with the German Sanctus and signifies that Christ has commanded us to remember him. For just as the sacrament is bodily elevated, yet Christ's body and blood are not seen in it, so he is also remembered and elevated by the word of the sermon and is confessed and adored in the reception of the Sacrament. In each case he is apprehended only by faith; for we cannot see how Christ gives his body and blood for us and even now daily shows and offers it before God to obtain grace for us." AE 53:82.
The practice was abolished in Wittenberg before Luther's death and he speaks of it differently at different times. Where it really came into force and into its own was in Lutheran Brandenburg, where in the 17th century the prince tried to smuggle in Calvinism. The Lutherans there insisted on the elevation as a vital confession of the real presence of our Lord's Body and Blood and even added some words to the action: "Dear Christian, this is the true body of your Lord, born of Mary, and this is the true blood of Christ, poured out for you upon the cross." This was called the Ostentatio. The Calvinists, of course, screamed bloody murder over the practice.
In our day and age, the elevation with the adoration of the Lord's body and blood, is a fine protest against "receptionism" which would teach that our Lord's almighty words do not effect His presence until the bread and wine are bodily tasted. Rather, the Lutheran Symbols, quoting St. John Chrysostom, speak of our Lord's body resting upon all the altars of Christendom! Thus, we kneel before Him to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, and we confess - as Luther says - that though hidden from our eyes, He is present in His body and blood among us, just as He has promised.
By the way, the practice really isn't ancient, but medieval. It arose in the centuries before the Reformation, where it was regarded as THE high point of the Mass - the moment at which the "sacrifice" was offered to the Father. This explains the Lutheran ambivalence to the practice. If I may put it so, we do not elevate in the Lutheran Church so that the sacrifice is lifted for God to see (Christ presents Himself to the Father ceaselessly as our sacrifice), but so that the people may see, adore, and confess Him who comes to us under the appearance of bread and wine.