20 November 2006

Good Read

Dr. Tighe sent me the other day a copy of Dom Gregory Dix's *A Detection of Aumbries.* It makes for some fascinating reading. The information about the reservation of the Holy Sacrament which Dix assembled in these few pages challenges much of the conventional "story" about how and why reservation came to be, and how it was practiced in various places across the centuries. I am gratified to report that at St. Paul, the holy Eucharist is kept in a cabinet safe and clean and under lock and key. We are thus in compliance with Innocent III's decree; not like those rebellious ENGLISH priests. ; )

Of special interest to me was his section on the practice of kneeling to commune - a typically northern European practice. As a Lutheran communicant I have always taken for granted that one kneels to receive our Lord's body and blood as an act of reverence to Him before whom every knee shall bow. Anyway, a good read and highly recommended. Thanks, Dr. Tighe!


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

You keep the Eucharist safe and clean and locked up.

??? I thought in Lutheranism, it ceased to be the Body and Blood once the service was over -- at the latest.


William Weedon said...

Sadly, there ARE Lutherans who believe and practice accordingly. But there have always been Lutherans who disagreed vehemently. Count me among them. Our Lord declares of the bread that it is His body and He didn't mention a time limit, but He did tell us what to do with it: EAT it. Hence what is reserved is not reserved for any other purpose than the receiving of the Sacrament - usually by the sick and shutins, but also by the congregation at later celebrations of the Eucharist (where the previously consecrated elements are distributed first). This is in contrast to the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament that is practiced in Roman churches. No one offers prayers in front of the cabinet that holds the reserved Sacrament or any such. The cabinet, purposefully constructed to resemble the Altar, holds both the consecrated elements - our Lord's body and blood - and also further unconsecrated elements against future celebrations. But the two are kept carefully separated from each other.

ConcordiaFan said...

Jesus didn't say, "Take and eat and what you don't eat of me, put it in a closet."

Luther was NOT in favor of reservation and in fact was strongly against it, along with most every other Orthodox Lutheran whom I'm aware [that ought to get Pr. Weedon to trot out the "Lutherans who disagree vehemently"].

Just consume what remains and be done with these silly speculations.

Chris Jones said...


Dr Luther was entitled to his opinion, but the practice of the historic Church doesn't support it.

While it is true that if the sacramental elements are consecrated and reserved for the purpose of extra-liturgical adoration, it may be regarded as "outside the use", that does not mean that our Lord's words "This is My body" come with a time limit. When the Holy Gifts are consecrated for the purpose of communion, even if the communicants are not present at the time of consecration, then the Saviour's words are obeyed and the sacrament is "within the use".

Given that the Saviour said "This is My body", it is not those who reserve the sacrament for the sick, and show due reverence to the Holy Gifts, who are being "speculative"; it is those who imagine that there is a time limit attached who are speculating.

William Weedon said...


Just search this blog. Somewhere there is the paper I delivered at St. Michael's that deals in part with Luther's toleration of the practice at Brandenburg.

William Weedon said...

Exactlly, Christopher. I think historical context invites some reflection in this regard. In the face of the Roman abuse that the Reformers were facing, I can see why the preference to consume all arose (and it matches very well with passover's treatment as type), even while the other practice was not condemned (even if frowned upon somewhat). But in our day this is scarcely the danger we are facing - our people wanting to adore the host outside the sacrament and offer prayers before it. Bloody unlikely. So I think a pastoral argument can be added to the historical one: that we treat with every due reverence the very body and blood of the Savior which will be received by those unable to join in the current celebration and thus "body and blood them" (a la Nagel) to Christ Himself and so to His Church.

William Tighe said...

It is only fair to point out that one element of Dix's argument in *A Detection of Aumbries* appears to have been conclusively disproven, namely, that the method of reservation that the papacy was promoting from ca. 1215 onwards was the aumbry. According to a reply to Dix's *Detection ...* entitled *The Myth of the Aumbry* of ca. 1959 (the names of the two authors of which I cannot recall) it is far more likely to have been the tabernacle on the altar, the method which came to dominate Latin Catholic practice in the 16th, 17th & 18th centuries. *The Myth of the Aumbry* is otherwise a deadly dull read, with lumbering attempted witticisms at Dix's expense, and one regrets that Dix was not alive to give its authors' pomposity the skewering it deserved.

In discrediting "the myth of the aumbry" the work alluded to disproved one central element of Dix's little work, but I have never been able to discern the reason why for the last 50 years virtually every one of the (few) references to *A Detection ...* dismisses it briefly as "outdated and conclusively disproven."

William Weedon said...

Dr. Tighe,

I confess that the most surprising thing to me in his work was his demonstration of the USUAL nature of reservation by the laity - for daily communions. I had known that it was done, but I had assumed it exceptional. He seems to marshall the evidence that it was anything but. I take it that his evidence for this still holds? In general, I always think Dix has the goods in the data, but his conclusions from the data are not the same thing as the data itself, if that makes any sense.

William Tighe said...

Here it is:

*The Myth of the Aumbry: notes on medieval reservation practice and eucharistic devotion, With special reference to the findings of Dom Gregory Dix* by S.J.P. van Dijk, O.F.M. and J. Hazelden Walker (London, 1957: Burns & Oates).

I think that Dix's conclusions about the normality of private or domestic reservation still hold.

Benjamin Andersen said...

I don't understand the comments about Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

If you truly believe that Jesus continues to be present in the eucharistic elements, and you reserve the Sacrament in accordance with this belief, how can adoration of Jesus in the reserved Eucharist be off-limits?

Yes, indeed, the purpose of the Eucharist is quite clear from Jesus' own words. Accipite et manducate. Take, eat. No one has ever doubted this.

But for the life of me, I can't see how the practice of Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass can detract from or eclipse the partaking of the Blessed Sacrament. I know of no place where frequent Communion has declined as a result of Benediction and Exposition. If anything, where Benediction is regularly practiced, people are more aware of what they are receiving, make worthier Communions, and set aside more time for Preparation and Thanksgiving after Communion.

I know that Lutherans don't practice Benediction. I'm speaking from a Western Rite Orthodox perspective, being in a Church whose majority Eastern Rite usage does not include anything akin to Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Obviously, paraliturgical devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is a later development only in the Latin Church. It is not a necessary practice for a church to be "Catholic" or "Orthodox." But, IMHO, it is certainly entirely consistent with the Orthodox Catholic Faith.

Anyhow, just my own incoherent ramblings on the topic ...

Rose said...

Pastor Weedon, it is quite possible I have asked of you before...so bear with me, my memory ain't what it used to be. How does your practice reconcile with this statement from the Solid D?

For they do not maintain that the body of Christ is present apart from the use, as when the bread is laid aside or reserved in the tabernacle or carried about and exposed in procession, as happens in the papacy.

The statement seems to separate the two issues, procession and storage. It has always been a curiosity for me. Thanks.

William Weedon said...


The key I believe is the phrase "as happens in the papacy" which speaks about the "apart from use" having to do with reserving for the purposes of eucharistic veneration. Because we reserve only for the purposes of communing, and in that distribution also recite the Verba Christi for the edification of the communicant, I believe we are well within the Symbolical norms.


I understand the confusion, but it is interesting that Dix noted that in the first centuries this was precisely the norm: no question it was the body of our Lord; no question it was reserved; no question that it was not shown any special honor until the northern european practice spread.


I have some reservations about reservation said...

Father Weedon, can you produce evidence from Lutheran practice in the 16th century that the Blessed Sacrament was reserved with the the understanding that once the Verba are spoken it forever is then the Body of Christ, and that the reserved hosts were then brought out the following Sunday and the Verba spoken not to consecrate the bread, but rather to "edify the communicant"?

Now I'm not talking about taking the Sacrament from the worship service directly to commune the infirmed. I'm talking about a permanent reservation such as you practice by which you confess that the bread remains the body after the "use" of the Divine Service.

I will be interested in reading more about this practice in Lutheranism.

Many thanks!

William Weedon said...

Dear Reserved,

I think it is implied in the Petri order from 1529 where the priest comes to the sick person, reads several long exhortations, inquires about their faith, reads the account from 1 Cor 11 and then "let the minister read the further words of Christ *for the comfort and further establishment of the sick person*" - namely the Verba - thus without any indication that they are intended as consecratory - and then "he administers to him."

William Weedon said...

Luther's own words from Table Talk, in the presence of Cordatus from Brandenburg where the sick were communed from the altar (but remember, we don't know how much beer he had had by then...):

“We don’t think it should be done. To be sure, one must allow it for a while. The practice will probably be dropped, if only because they have no ciborium. What should be done about it? In our churches, too, there’s a debate about whether [elements of] the sacrament should be carried to another altar for consecration. I put up with it on account of several heretics who must be opposed, for there are some who allow that it’s a sacrament only while it’s in use; what is left over and remains they throw away. That isn’t right. We let somebody consume it. One must never be so precise four or five steps or when kept so-and-so many hours. What does it matter? How can one bless the bread for each and every one? We also retain the practice of elevating the sacrament on account of several heretics who say it must be done so. It must not be done so, for as long as one is engaged in the action even if it extends for an hour or two or even if one carried it to another altar or, as you do (he said this to Cordatus) across the street, it is and remains the Body of Christ.”

I'm glad to report that we have a fresh supply of ciborium available... ; )

Chris Jones said...


Bp Kallistos Ware said of this issue that for the Orthodox, there is no theological, as opposed to a liturgical, objection to the practice of extra-liturgical adoration of Christ in His body and blood. I was always puzzled by this distinction between a "theological objection" and a "liturgical objection". But I think I understand what Bp Ware was referring to better now, and I think it sheds light on the Lutheran stance on the matter.

As Lutherans, we believe, teach, and confess the Real Presence of the body and blood of the Saviour in the sacrament of the altar as firmly as do Christians of any other confession. The word we use to denote the relationship between the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ is IS; not represents, symbolizes, or anything else but is. Accordingly, we do adore our Lord Jesus Christ present in His body and blood in the sacramental elements. Normally, that is in the context of receiving communion in the Mass; but if we receive communion outside of the Mass, from the reserved elements, we receive with the same reverence, the same veneration, and the same adoration of Jesus Christ that we do during the Mass.

You are right that if Jesus is truly present in the reserved sacrament, there can be no charge of idolatry for worshipping Him there. But the objection is not that it is idolatrous, but simply that is is outside of what He commanded. That is, I think, what Bp Kallistos had in mind: there is no theological objection (that is, it is not idolatrous because the Divine Saviour is truly present, and is properly to be adored); but there is a liturgical objection, because it does not conform to the Saviour's specific command as to how He is to be worshipped. There are precious few "rubrics" or specific liturgical instructions in the New Testament, but there is at least this one: Take and eat ... This do, in remembrance of Me. If we do not obey that Scriptural and dominical "rubric", I would call that a profound "liturgical objection".

But for the life of me, I can't see how the practice of Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass can detract from or eclipse the partaking of the Blessed Sacrament. I know of no place where frequent Communion has declined as a result of Benediction and Exposition.

In the mediaeval Western Church, in the centuries before the Reformation, Eucharistic Adoration absolutely "detracted from and eclipsed" the partaking of the sacrament. Even in the Mass itself, the adoration of the Host (at the elevation) had become the center of the Mass for the laity, to the almost total exclusion of communion itself. You have to understand the Lutheran objections to eucharistic adoration in that context, and you can't judge things by our contemporary experience, which is the (uniformly positive) result of the twentieth-century Liturgical Movement in the Western confessions.

William Weedon said...


Excellent explanation of Bishop Ware's words. That makes great sense. IN the use, there is adoration; OUTSIDE the use, there is not. One of the explanations I heard a friend give to "ex opere operato" has intrigued me in this regard for a number of years. He simply rendered it as: "the sacrament benefits without using it." Thus, it benefited the dead who did not partake of it; or it benefited the congregation that came to adore, but not commune. The whole force of the Reformer's argument was: EAT! DRINK! THAT'S how it benefits and in such action, adoration is entirely fitting and worthy.

Benjamin Andersen said...

Pastor Weedon wrote:

I understand the confusion, but it is interesting that Dix noted that in the first centuries this was precisely the norm: no question it was the body of our Lord; no question it was reserved; no question that it was not shown any special honor until the northern european practice spread.

Understood; paraliturgical devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is definitely a later development (actually a response to medieval heresies denying the reality of Christ's Presence in the Eucharistic elements). But the fact that it is a later development is does not necessarily disqualify it or make it un-Orthodox or un-Catholic. But, of course, not only is it a later development, but it's also a local development - meaning that it is by no means essential to the Church, and it makes sense for the Latin Church only.

Chris Jones wrote:

In the mediaeval Western Church, in the centuries before the Reformation, Eucharistic Adoration absolutely "detracted from and eclipsed" the partaking of the sacrament. Even in the Mass itself, the adoration of the Host (at the elevation) had become the center of the Mass for the laity, to the almost total exclusion of communion itself

I'm not sure if the decline in frequent Communion was due to the adoration of the Host at the elevation. After all, there was a decline in frequent Communion in both East and West.

Perhaps the decline had more to do with exaggerated ideas of worthiness/unworthiness with regard to the reception of Communion. This would make the emphasis on the adoration of the Host a consequence of the decline of frequent Communion, rather than the other way around.

Nowadays, thanks to modern developments in both the Orthodox Church (e.g. Father Schmemann) and the Roman Catholic Church (e.g. Pius X), frequent Communion has been revived amongst the faithful. But in the Roman Church, since this revival, there has been no indication that Benediction/Exposition and frequent Communion are somehow in conflict with one another. Quite the opposite, in fact!

Pontificator said...

Pontificator's 11th Law:

"Eleventh Law: It doesn’t matter how vigorously you protest your belief in the eucharistic real presence: if you are not willing and eager to prostrate yourself before the Holy Gifts and adore, worship, and pray to the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, present under the forms of bread and wine, you really do not believe in the real presence."

William Weedon said...


It is a good thing you are a Roman Catholic! : )

But just to be clear: during the Divine Service I do indeed genuflect after the consecration and elevation of our Lord's Body and again of our Lord's Blood. And, as all Lutherans (and Roman Catholics) do: we pray to Him as He comes to us in the sacred species: Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miscereri nobis...dona nobis pacem. And, of course, all our people kneel before the blessed Sacrament as they receive it - well, those who CAN kneel, kneel. But all of this regards the handing of the most sacred gifts during the actual service, or as we are wont to say, "in the use."

William Weedon said...

By the way, I must say that I feel I have really MADE it in Blogdom if the famous Pontificator stops in for a visit - even a short one! : )