17 August 2009

Something I've Puzzled Over...

...in his little treatise *On the Holy Spirit,* St. Basil the Great provides a list (one would suppose, hardly exhaustive; more indicative) of unwritten (that is, extra-Biblical) traditions which he believes that the Church holds as coming down from the Apostles. Among the items is this:

"Have any saints left for us in writing the words to be used in the invocation over the Eucharistic bread and the cup of blessing? As everyone knows, we are not content in the liturgy to recite the words recorded by St. Paul or the Gospels, but we add other words both before and after, words of great importance for this mystery. We have received these words from unwritten tradition." (par. 66)

It almost sounds as though St. Basil were saying that the very words of the anaphora were something handed on from the Apostles. What leaves me puzzling over that is the well known fact that St. Justin, writing in the second century, expressly declares that the words of the anaphora were extemporized:

"Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given..." (First Apology, Par. 67)

Granted, there was a general pattern which St. Justin describes:

"There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen." (First Apology, Par. 65)

So a Trinitarian prayer "at considerable length" but offered "according to his ability." Thus, we would suppose it was not the text of the anaphora which was in some way sacrosanct and held to be apostolic, but I think the only way to interpret St. Justin's description is to recognize that there was a pattern of praying that was regarded as apostolic. And this fits with the fact that St. Basil the Great took in hand to compose such an anaphora - in fact, we have two recensions of his version of this prayer that he describes as coming down from the apostles. And that's just his! We have numerous anaphorae from those early years, many markedly different from each other in detail, but every last one of them, I believe, may be accurately described as praise to the Father for the gift of the Savior and of the holy sacrifice that is His Body and Blood, and quite often prayer for the Holy Spirit to hallow the gifts and grant a worthy reception of them.

Fast forward to the time of the Reformation. Rome cried "foul" when the Lutherans removed the Roman canon from their liturgy, though still leaving praise to the Father and prayers for worthy reception. I find it fascinating how Chemnitz responded to this in his monumental Examen:

"One certain form for these prayers, with fixed words, to which all churches were bound under peril of mortal sin was not prescribed, but there was freedom to use any form so long as it agreed with the faith.... Thus the Greeks had one form for such prayers in the church Dionysius, another in the church of Basil, and yet another in the church of Chrysostom. Among the Latins Ambrose had one form, Isidor another, Gregory still another. And yet when Augustine wanted to lay a question before Gregory, because one custom at Mass was held in the Roman church, another in the Gallican churches, Gregory did not want all churches bound to his form of prayers, but answered: 'In whatsoever church you find what is able to please God more, choose it diligently.' Therefore that they want to compel the churches to recite the papalist canon as something necessary, as though the consecration and Communion could not be done without this canon, is done outside of and contrary to the opinion of antiquity. And our churches are unjustly condemned because in the celebration of the Lord's Supper they, as did the ancients, freely use prayer formulas which are in harmony with the faith and because they accord with the nature of our times and make for the edification of the church, in which nevertheless the essential things are comprehended which were customary in the prayers of the ancients." (II:514,515)

I think Chemnitz reads the history correctly: St. Basil was not implying that there was an apostolic origin to the text of the prayers offered at the Eucharist, but to their pattern, which accords with our faith in being Trinitarian. I'd be quite curious if others have worked through this and have thoughts of their own to offer in this regard?


orrologion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev. Jim Roemke said...

Oh wonderful William, you have gone and stirred up our Orthodox brethren again!

Past Elder said...

I think there are at least two points of which we lose sight in such discussions.

One being, that the focus of Chemnitz and others of the time was not to lay down a procedure for Lutheran liturgists, but to demonstrate the validity of such efforts at all. IOW, the point is not so much about us as about Rome, and that the idea that proper liturgy only exists by Rome's determination is of Roman and not apostolic origin.

The other being, to describe a state of affairs where the same thing is done throughout the church but in various ways in various places is one thing, to put between two covers various ways for all places throughout the church is quite another.

Chris said...

We have to remember that at the very beginning of the church, there was no one prescribed universal Liturgy. There was variety over the empire which stopped until Rome started insisting on the same rite in the West and after ecumenical councils pretty much endorsed the liturgies now in current use. St. Justin Martyr may have been describing one instance of extemporizing and was unfamiliar with developments else where.

Christopher is correct that for the Orthodox text is secondary to the work of the Spirit. But that does not allow us to be egoists when it comes to the Liturgy and do whatever we interpret the Spirit "inspires" us to do. If changes are to be made, it must be done organically.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If I am correct, the Didache also uses that "to the best of his ability" language.

npmccallum said...

I think it needs to be proven, not merely stated, that "to the best of one's ability" actually means "extemporaneously". Certainly extemporaneous is one of the possible meanings. However, even fleeting glances at the scholarship on this passage reveal a variety of opinions.

npmccallum said...

Regarding the actual understanding of St. Basil, the best overview of liturgical development available today is still Gregory Dix's "The Shape of the Liturgy." I would honestly not form any strong opinions on liturgical development without first reading this (pre-eminent) work.

William Tighe said...

On the origins of the anaphora, Dix needs to be "supplemented" by "From Berakah to Eucharistia: A Repoening Question," by Thomas J. Talley, *Worship* 50:2 (March 1976), pp. 115-137 -- an article which criticizes (I think cogently) Dix's assumption that "eulogia" and "eucharistia" mean the same think, which has a certain effect on Dix's theory that the anaphora originated from the second paragraph, and the second paragraph alone, of the Birkat ha-Mazon, the solemn Jewish post-prandial meal blessing.

Perhaps some folk might even find my own article on Dix in the November 2008 issue of *Touchstone* of interest:


There has been in recent decades a tendency in liturgical scholarship to deny any particular precise for the anaphora, and (much as in the Scriptural "higher criticism" of a century ago and afterwards) to see fiction, forgery and "pseudonymity" everywhere. A good example of this, if a careful one, by a Catholic scholar is *The Origins of the Eucharistic Prayer* by Enrico Mazza (Collegeville, MN, 1995; The Liturgical Press).

William Weedon said...

It just MIGHT be that I have read Dix...

William Tighe said...

Well, *I* know that, Pastor Weedon.

William Weedon said...

I think Dix does run with the extempore, given his comment on p. 216: "Yet if a prayer had been handed down in tradition by a process of more or less free reproduction extempore Sunday by Sunday for a century through a long line of celebrants, the most that could be expected to maintain itself would be a series of themes in a certain connection."

William Tighe said...

Talley's idea is that the anaphora derives from all three paragraphs of the pre-70 AD Birkat ha-Mazon (a fourth paragraph was added to the Jewish prayer subsequently), not so much by slavish textual copying, but by the succession of "a series of themes in a certain connection" (as Dix wrote). He notes (a) that the first two paragraphs of the Jewish prayer have as their themes "praise" (berakah) and "thanksgiving" (yadah) -- the third is "supplication" -- and that this clear division is preserved in most old West Syrian anaphoras (as well as those developed or elaborated by St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom) and that in both West Syrian and East Syrian euchology the analogous Syriac verbs (barekath and 'oudith) appear in the same sections of these older anaphoras; and (b) that in the Jewish prayer "festal embolisms" could be and were added on particular occasions to paragraphs 2 and/or 3 of the prayer. He sees (b) as accounting for the at first occasional and final permanent addition of the "Sanctus" between paragraphs one and two of the prayer, as well as variability of the place of the Words of Institution (sometimes in the equivalent of para. 2, sometimes in that of 3) in these anaphoras, and he takes for granted that some early anaphoras lacked the Words of Institution altogether.

I am not aware that Talley ever returned to this particular theme or focus in his later published writings.

Past Elder said...

The argument cited by Dr Tighe has a lot going for it. (This agreeing with Dr Tighe thing has gotten altogether out of hand!)

The Birkat Hamazon is required in Jewish Law as the grace after meals that include bread, as commanded in DT 8:10 (the rabbinic jury is still out on whether this means pizza too, I say it does, hell yes, you think God didn't know Pizza Hut was coming).

The three original blessings are from Moses for the food, from Jacob for Israel, and from David for Jerusalem. The fourth is from Gamliel, who taught St Paul so nuff said, for God's goodness.

Not only that, there's prayers for God's mercy afterwards, and on Shabbes and holydays Psalm 126 before and other Psalm verses praising God.

Plus, if there's at least three men at the meal (Orthodox, who cares about the rest) there's an invitation to join the prayer, the Zimmun, so there's your Preface.

On top of which, whoever does the Zimmun does the blessing over the wine, which at the Seder is the Third Cup, exactly where Jesus said "This is the cup of my blood etc" which must have blown them clean away to hear that rather than what they knew and expected!

Too, before saying it one washes one's hands, usually water on the finger tips, hello Lavabo.

And finally, there's four different texts for the Birkat ha-Mazon, but, while the wording varies the structure does not.

Absolutely unmistakeable -- unless one chooses to ignore that these guys were Jews. The canon, or whatever one wishes to call it, and the offertory before it, is Christian benching.

Dixie said...

Oh...so this explains the groovy "Creative Worship" binders!

Sorry--couldn't resist. At my husband's parish they are STILL using those things. I was never a fan.

William Weedon said...

I am honestly not sure what you're talking about, Dixie. But it sounds like something I'm not sure I WANT to know about! :)

Dixie said...

The ones I know of were worship services for the 3 year lectionary printed in binders in the 1980's Everything would be reworded every week...the Kyrie could be different, the confession and absolution could be reworded, the Creed could be redone, other parts of the liturgy as well, all worded around a theme for the week that came from the lectionary readings...I think, if I recall correctly. Anyway...you would definitely not have liked it!

christl242 said...

Oh...so this explains the groovy "Creative Worship" binders!

I saw them at an LCMS parish that uses Lutheran Worship materials.

No more shocking than the Vineyard evangelical praise music I saw at my former Roman Catholic parish.

My LCMS parish never uses that kind of stuff.


William Weedon said...

ICK! You're right. I wouldn't. Your husband goes there and likes it???

William Weedon said...

Creative Worship - you know, I think that's understanding the phrase backwards. What's creative in worship is not what we do the music and the text; its what God does through His Words and gifts to US. He's the creative one, after all.

christl242 said...

Well, having survived the 60s, 70s and 80s -- clown masses, polka masses, circus masses and other nonsense across the denominational spectrum -- Creative Worship isn't my cup of tea but it ain't the worst of it!


Dixie said...

ICK! You're right. I wouldn't. Your husband goes there and likes it???

Above all things my husband is Lutheran. We live in a state where not one single congregation showed up on that approved liturgical congregation list (no surprises, happy family) that was going around a while back. My husband goes to the only Lutheran church in town and the only one within a 45 minute radius. Now I wish he hated it enough to say "no more"...maybe then he would come to Church with me. But he participates in the local Lutheran congregation God has given him--Creative Worship and all. I admire him a lot for that...and I am equally grateful that I don't have to go!

William Weedon said...


Sad to hear that there are no parishes in the area that offer the Lutheran liturgy. I don't get the thinking behind that; I honestly don't.


What always gets me is the assumption that something some person wrote for a special worship service used today and gone tomorrow is somehow more, what?, engaging? than the prayers we've prayed together for hundreds of years.


Chemnitz was by no means arguing from the early church practice to every parish doing what seems right in its own eyes. He was simply arguing that the Church has never regarded itself as bound to recitation of a particular text of the anaphora as being of the very essence of the holy Sacrament.

christl242 said...

What always gets me is the assumption that something some person wrote for a special worship service used today and gone tomorrow is somehow more, what?, engaging? than the prayers we've prayed together for hundreds of years.

A valid point, PW. I think this is more of a phenomenon in areas that are heavily Protestant and "Bible Belt", in the proper context.

In my area of NE Ohio there's even a lot of pressure from a huge local Southern Baptist church (which intentionally downplays that denominational affiliation). This church has drawn away quite a large number of Catholics who never learned their faith well to begin with so the local RC parishes have mistakenly assumed that they need to adapt to a more "praise" culture to keep their parishioners.

I will always be grateful for the solid catechesis I received as a Lutheran kid. It came in handy years later to help me sort a lot of things out that needed sorting.


William Weedon said...


Have you ever imagined what things would have been like (dangerous, I know) if we'd not gotten into this whole worship wars thingy and the Missouri Synod had simply ploughed on with her liturgy, faithfully celebrated in her parishes, and continued concentrating her efforts on solid Law/Gospel preaching and catechesis? I think about it often, and shake my head at how Satan has pulled a fast one on us yet again. What fools we are to DEBATE liturgy rather than simply to pray and live within it, and from it, to reach out to a world that is dying for the communion we have in Christ our Lord!

Kiran said...

I think though that the Roman point would have been that changing something as fundamental as that, in and of itself carries with it consequences. This is to say "Lex Orandi Lex Credendi," I suppose, with a Mary Douglas twist to it. Liturgical change, and certainly liturgical change that was that radical, does not come without a price.

The question is whether the consequence was desirable, and sufficiently so to make the change worthwhile.

christl242 said...

Have you ever imagined what things would have been like (dangerous, I know) if we'd not gotten into this whole worship wars thingy and the Missouri Synod had simply ploughed on with her liturgy, faithfully celebrated in her parishes, and continued concentrating her efforts on solid Law/Gospel preaching and catechesis?

Pastor Weedon, I do remember such a time. All the Lutheran churches in which I worshipped as a child, including those in the LCMS, were remarkably free of the worship wars. The liturgy in the ALC parish in which I was confirmed ws hardly different from the liturgy of the LCMS.

But we are certainly not alone in this. Just about every liturgical tradition has been afflicted. The so-called unity that was supposed to happen after the adoption of the common lectionary has been anything but.

I even doubt that the preconciliar popes would recognize as Catholic what goes on in the average suburban RC parish. I wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't seen and heard it with my own eyes and ears.

Nevertheless I am very much encouraged by the fact that there are still parishes in the LCMS that are evangelical and catholic. If we have to shrink for a time and then rebuild so be it.

A certain German pope has said the same thing about his own communion.


Chris Jones said...


Just about every liturgical tradition has been afflicted

"Just about," perhaps; but not absolutely every one has been so afflicted.

Fr Weedon,

if we'd not gotten into this whole worship wars thingy and the Missouri Synod had simply ploughed on with her liturgy, faithfully celebrated in her parishes

Of course, "simply ploughing along with her liturgy" is just another way of saying "being faithful to the Apostolic Tradition," which is what St Basil was saying. Not that the text itself of the LCMS liturgy (or any other) is immutable or akin to Holy Writ, but that there is a certain irreducible essence, structure, and function, without which the liturgy cannot be recognized as Apostolic.

Once we begin to regard the liturgy as our response to the Gospel (rather than being the Apostolic way in which the Gospel itself is delivered), then it is a small step to regarding it as something of our own crafting, subject to no guidelines beyond personal taste and/or popularity. And then the pattern of liturgy given to us in the Apostolic Tradition will be left behind as a thing of no value.

So yes, "if only" Missouri had been faithful to her liturgy; but also "if only" Dr Luther had not gutted the ancient pattern of the anaphora, and "if only" Rome had not adulterated the Creed with her own theological opinions (which our Lutheran fathers then followed). But "if only" has little value; only "what can we do about it" is worth asking.

Past Elder said...

Just an aside -- you realise, of course, there is absolutely no such thing, really, as an Anglican Benedictine, which is true on both Benedictine and truly Anglican, prior to 19th century Romantic fantasies, grounds.

Chris Jones said...

there is absolutely no such thing, really, as an Anglican Benedictine

This is a rather silly remark that is not worthy of you, Terry. I can only regard it as an attempt to impugn the bona fides of Dom Gregory Dix; but even if his status as an "Anglican Benedictine" is inconsistent or incoherent(which it is not), his scholarship nevertheless stands on its own merits.

There is nothing in the confessional documents (such as they are) of the Church of England that forbids or denigrates monasticism (unlike the Lutheran Confessions); the suppression of the monasteries in England was not theologically motivated, but rather a politically-motivated royal plundering of the monastic lands. Nor is there anything in the Rule of St Benedict (so far as I know) that requires those aspects of Papal Catholicism that the English Reformation rejected.

So a monk who follows the rule of St Benedict may plausibly claim to be a Benedictine; and a monk who is in communion with the Church of England may plausibly claim to be an Anglican. What shall we call such a man, if not an "Anglican Benedictine"?

Past Elder said...

Certainly his scholarship stands on its own, apart from his personal religious fantasies.

Just as "Anglican Benedictines" stand outside the Order of St Benedict.

Just as the "Church of England" stands outside of, well ...

Lvka said...

LOL! :-) What will You post next? Another dozen pages of text, mesmerizing at how You've recently discovered the perplexing fact that the Earth is round, and that it rotates around the Sun? :-) [Sorry, I mean no offense: You know I like You].

William Weedon said...


Behave yourself.


The forward looking question is the one to answer. We have what we have been given; how may we most faithfully live in that and hand it on to the next generation. LSB provides a thoroughly Lutheran and faithful way of worship (yes, Terry, even with its five orders of Divine Service), and we see in LSB a few more steps toward cautiously putting together the "hole" that removal of the canon (apart from the Verba) effected. I would gladly have seen more, but it is clearly moving in the right direction. Other Lutherans (like SELK) have long since restored a whole anaphora; and the LCMS still has the whole anaphoras found in Worship Supplement (fast becoming ancient history). It may be a pipe dream, but what I encourage is that each pastor of Synod use faithfully and use fully the liturgy we have in our hymnal, catechize according to the beautiful insights of the Small Catechism, and so seek to hand onto the next generation a lived experience of the faith that can continue to grow and where it has been damaged to be restored.

Past Elder said...

Dix himself is an example of the fruitlessness of all this liturgical discussion. A pre-eminent scholar of liturgy, yet didn't even think the Verba were of the essence but rather the shape or order of service.

As long as we buy into for liturgy the same approach we reject for Scripture, an historical-critical approach, we will get the same result from it in liturgy as we already do in faith -- several faiths all contending for the name Christian.

Regional variations over the entire church are one thing; variations for the church irrespective of region are another. The latter have only validity of whatever bunch of scholars came up with them and whatever denom said OK.

Liturgical books with multiple services, multiple lectionaries, multiple calendars only invite endless wrangling over what else should be included in the multiplicity, and the multiplicity will itself invite multiplicity of doctrine and understanding.

And this is nowhere more clear than with the canon, anaphora, Eucharistic Prayer or whatever else on wishes to call it. It was a stroke of genius to remove it from the Divine Service. It's one of those things that whatever its venerable tradition and however good its original intent, has brought nothing but trouble and division, and the Words of the Lord, the only part which has his command, suffice.

We can bench all we want, but when push comes to shove at the Eucharist, he needs no elaboration from us as he gives us his body and blood as his testament and the pledge of our salvation.

William Tighe said...

"A pre-eminent scholar of liturgy, yet didn't even think the Verba were of the essence but rather the shape or order of service."

A view in which he was entirely correct historically, if not dogmatically; and in which Lutherans can vie with "Romanists" in crying "we must defeat history by dogma" (a phrase attributed to Cardinal Manning).

christl242 said...

@Past Elder:

“And now it has finally come to this: the chief thing in the mass has been forgotten, and nothing is remembered except the additions of men! … Indeed, the greatest and most useful art is to know what really and essentially belongs to the mass, and what is added and foreign to it. For where there is no clear distinction, the eyes and the heart are easily misled by such sham into a false impression and delusion. Then what men have contrived is considered the mass; and what the mass really is, is never experienced, to say nothing of deriving benefit from it ... If we desire to observe mass properly and to understand it, then we must surrender everything that the eyes behold and that the senses suggest – be it vestments, bells, songs, ornaments, prayers, processions, elevations, prostrations, or whatever happens in the mass – until we first grasp and thoroughly ponder the words of Christ, by which he performed and instituted the mass and commanded us to perform it. (emphasis mine) For therein lies the whole mass, its nature, work, profit, and benefit. Without the words nothing is derived from the mass.”

So sayeth the venerable Herr Doktor Luther in agreement with your views.


Past Elder said...

Well, though I would point out that Dix' conclusions were controversial in his day and are still contended, nonetheless the string is unbroken and I agree with Dr Tighe that Dix' assessment is entirely accurate from a historical point of view.

And that being the case, all the more reason that history is no guide to dogma or truth, and that the whole canon/anaphora/EP thing is best left out since Christ did not put it in, which of itself would not be so bad, but it obscures what HE put it, the only thing HE put it.

And to make full disclosure, I was as a Catholic and am as a Lutheran a big fan of Cardinal Manning, especially by contrast to his ludicrous contemporary Newman.

orrologion said...

...the whole canon/anaphora/EP thing is best left out since Christ did not put it in, which of itself would not be so bad, but it obscures what HE put it, the only thing HE put it.

It should be noted that in the Byzantine Rites, normally, the anaphora is unheard by those in the nave. The primary thing heard is the Words of Institution, and the exclamations following the anaphora.

Of course, saying that the ONLY thing Christ put in were the Words of Institution is like claiming Christ is locked in heaven bodily and has not been working in His Body, the Church. That sounds rather Calvinistic or Zwinglian to me.

npmccallum said...

Of course the other problem is the oldest liturgy we have record of (the East Syrian Liturgy of Addai and Mari) does not even contain the words of institution at all.

Bradshaw's "Essays on Early Eastern Eucharistic Prayers" is an indispensable resource for scholarship on the Eastern anaphoras.

And, for the record, I was merely offering Dix as a reference to everyone on the thread. I assumed that Pastor Weedon had already in fact read him (since there are in fact allusions to Dix in his post).

Past Elder said...

Oh for the cat's sake, the whole thing is said silently in the West anyway, until Vatican II, Trent pronouncing anathema on anyone who says this is wrong (session 22, canon 9), silent being really in a low voice so good altar boys like me know when to ring the bloody bell.

The silent canon is counted a positive, in which the agency of a mere man is reduced to an absolute minimum, that the timeless action of Christ stand out, lifting man from the noise of this present world to the rest and repose beyond this world's din in silent awe.

Even the prayer that goes before is called the Secret for jumping Judas' sake.

The most learned, reverend, altogether to be esteemed, and of course Benedictine, Dom Gueranger, tied the whole audible canon thing to the damn Jansenists.

Even the word canon itself, which means rule, supports Dix. It is the rule by which the Sacrament is confected -- the form or shape. Verba or no Verba.

When Jesus was unlocked from heaven, so zu sagen, and worked in his body, Jesus, he said Take and Eat, Take and Drink, not Take and Adore, nor Take and Pray either.

What kind of benching is more into the benching itself than what one is benching about? (If you don't know what benching is, well, as Melanie Griffith said in A Stranger Among Us, ask your Rabbi.)

No benching that obscures the Word of Christ, or thinks it is sufficient apart from it, however well meant, is of Christ. Which is why rather than open the can of worms that is the whole canon thing, a history of a well meant but misguided piety, leave the bleeder out, as stated in the quotation happily supplied by die Christine.

Daniel said...

A very thought provoking post. Your honest inquiries are a blessing to all who read them.

Fr Daniel Hackney

Fearsome Comrade said...

Kiran, in the 16th century, there was a great insistence on exact lockstep following with what was legislated out of Rome. I think it goes back to certain canons of Gratian that said, in effect, that whatever was going on in Rome was normative for the whole Church. There was also the question of what Tradition was, with one of the dominant views that it was a parallel oral tradition, handed down from the apostles, that contained things like the canon of the Mass and the exact form of the rite of confirmation.

Take it with a grain of salt; my history is rusty.

Chris Jones said...


the whole canon/anaphora/EP thing is best left out since Christ did not put it in

Is it really true that Christ did not put it in? I am not so sure. When He said "This do in remembrance of me," what is the word "this" referring to? Is it referring to "take, eat" only, or to the whole action of Christ: taking bread, giving thanks, breaking the bread, and distributing it?

He did not say, quote my words verbatim; He said, do what I have done. And what He did included a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread and wine. And the constant practice of the Church from the Apostles' time to Luther was to offer a prayer of thanksgiving over the bread and wine, because "this do" was understood to include the action of giving thanks. Only Luther decided that "this do" meant "repeat my words" and nothing more.

William Weedon said...

Actually, Luther did not say that, Chris. He specifically spoke of the anamnesis as a "preaching, praising, and thanking God for the grace of Christ shown to us poor sinners by his suffering." And he adds: "God instituted this sacrament chiefly for the sake of this remembrance." (AE 38:111) While Lutheran liturgy has historically been rather brief on this thanksgiving, it has always had it in some form: the Preface, in the Exhortation to Communicants, in prayers before the Consecration, in the Communion hymnody itself.

Chris Jones said...

Actually, Luther did not say that

No, Luther did not say that; he did it (he, and the compilers of Lutheran Church Orders who followed him). He cut the heart out of the Mass because it did not conform to his theological opinions (viz. it "stank of oblation").

Luther (and those who followed him) drew their theological conclusions and then performed surgery on the liturgy to make it conform. That stands lex orandi lex est credendi on its head. And it is precisely the sort of thing that St Basil had in mind when he wrote (in the same paragraph that you quoted above) if we were to attempt to reject those customs which have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals.

If St Basil was right, then Luther was wrong. If the liturgy is a matter of Apostolic Tradition then Luther had no right to make of it an artifact of his own crafting. On this point, at least, you may follow the Fathers or you may follow Luther. You cannot pretend that they teach and practice the same. You must choose.

I know where I stand.

William Weedon said...


I certainly wish Luther had preceded otherwise on this, but given the way that the texts were explained in his day, it might have been asking the impossible.

What I find fascinating is that in the next generation, when Chemnitz runs through the Canon in Examen, there are numerous prayers that he praises, though pointing out how a Lutheran understanding of them differs from a papist's. He approves: "We offer our supplications that You would regard as acceptable and would bless these gifts, these presents, these sacrifices" from the Offertory. He praises: "We offer to you this sacrifice of praise for the redemption of our souls, for the hope of salvation." He praises: "Deign to grant also to us sinners, Thy servants, who hope in greatness of Thy compassion, some share and fellowship with Thy saints, not by appraising our merits but by granting forgiveness through Christ our Lord." He regards: "to whose merits and prayers" as patched onto this. Rightly understood, he approves: "Graciously receive this offering, and order our days in Your peace and command that we be saved from eternal damnation" and similarly "Deign to render this offered blessed, ascribed to us, approved, reasonable, acceptable." He argues that the likening of the sacrifice to Abel and Melchizedek was originally part of the offertory and should be understood of the bread and wine, not the body and blood (based on the traditional Secret prayer for 7th Sunday after Pentecost). He approves "through Christ, through whom You always create all these good things for us, hallow, bless, and grant them to us; through Him be to Thee, God the Father, all honor and praise in the unity of the Holy Spirit."

Putting together what he has explicitly approved, it seems a crying shame that the Lutheran Church did not seek to remove only the objectionable portions from the canon (that they felt could not be brought into conformity with the truth of God's Word) and to have retained the rest. Had they done so, I think we'd have seen a prayer along these lines:

We offer to You this sacrifice of praise for the redemption of our souls, for the hope of eternal salvation. Graciously receive this offering and order our days in Your peace, and command that we be saved from eternal damnation through Christ our Lord.

On the night...

Wherefore, we Your servants, as also Your holy people, calling to mind the blessed Passion of the same Christ, Your Son, our Lord, His resurrection from the dead and glorious Ascension into heaven, give thanks to Your most excellent Majesty for the gifts here bestowed upon us, the holy bread of eternal life and the cup of everlasting salvation.

Deign to grant also to us sinners, Your servants, who hope in greatness of Your compassion, some share and fellowship with Your saints, not by appraising our merits but by granting forgiveness through Christ our Lord.

Through Him You always create all these good things for us, hallow, bless, and grant them to us; through Him be to You, God the Father, all honor and praise in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

At least, it strikes me that Chemnitz would have been open to such a reception of much of the Canon. But that's merely a guess going by his words in Examen.

Off to lunch! Pax!