04 January 2011

Pastors, hands off the verbs!

Prompted by a discussion I was involved in today.  How muddled we get things when we think of the Lord's Supper the wrong way round.  We dare never forget that it is Christ our Lord who takes, blesses, and distributes to us His body and blood.  The directionality of the Supper from first to last is from Him to us.  True, He chooses to make use of the men He has placed into the Office of the Ministry for, among other things, the doing of this, but they are mere instruments for Him.  He is the actor.  He is THE Liturgist.  He is the one who takes, and blesses, and breaks, and gives; and what He gives is His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins so that we might share in His own divine life.  The action is all His.  We may not horn in on His verbs.  I as a person cannot consecrate anything; but Christ in gracious condescension would have use of my mouth and my hands to effect His miracle.  The power to effect the consecration is and remains His alone; the pastor is authorized (by Christ through His Church) to speak the words, but their power and effectiveness come not from the human instrument in any slightest way - their power and effectiveness resides solely in that Christ is speaking and acting through them.  How differently would we behave as pastors if we always remembered that in that solemnest of services, we are representatives and instruments of our Lord Jesus Himself, who is present and active and having His use of us!  How differently would the congregation look upon the miracle of the Supper, if they always remembered that it is not the pastor up there doing his thing; it is rather the Lord Jesus acting, speaking, and reaching a divine gift to His people out of unspeakable love, even though He does so through a very flawed, broken, damaged  - aye, sinful! - human being whom He has put there for this purpose.


tehazy said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Phil said...

It is the pastor's mouth that is authorized to speak Christ's words and his hands that are authorized to distribute Christ's Body and Blood. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that this authorization does not necessarily extend to the pastor's smiling face, steady eye contact, or manly, proclamatory stance.

In an ad orientem celebration, the pastor's voice is heard and his hands are seen, but his face is hidden.

Some Roman Catholics have objected to versus populum celebrations because they are too clericalistic. There is an added emphasis on the person of the "president" and his friendly, welcoming face and demeanor. It seems to me that when the Roman Catholics are worried about clericalism, Lutherans ought to take notice...

Perhaps some of our unwarranted focus on the pastor's actions is due to the recent introduction of free-standing altars and versus populum celebrations.

William Weedon said...

Well, Phil, I'm totally an ad orientem dude...

Mike Keith said...

It is most interesting to me that the Verba are in fact spoken in the present tense. :-)

Anonymous said...

This relates to the reason the
Words of Institution are spoken to
the congregation by the pastor as
they prepare to receive the Eucharist
The Verba were never intended to
be spoken to God the Father in a
Eucharistic prayer. Instead in the
Verba Christ speaks to us as
repentant communicants.

Phil said...


Luther also said that the Verba are spoken by the people through the pastor to Christ:

"For, God be praised, in our churches we can show a Christian a true Christian mass according to the ordinance and institution of Christ, as well as according to the true intention of Christ and the church. There our pastor, bishop, or minister in the pastoral office, rightly and honorably and publicly called, having been previously consecrated, anointed, and born in baptism as a priest of Christ, without regard to the private chrism, goes before the altar. Publicly and plainly he sings what Christ has ordained and instituted in the Lord's Supper. He takes the bread and wine, gives thanks, distributes and gives them to the rest of us who are there and want to receive them, on the strength of the words of Christ: "This is my body, this is my blood. Do this," etc. Particularly we who want to receive the sacrament kneel beside, behind, and around him, man, woman, young, old, master, servant, wive, maid, parents, and children, even as God brings us together there, all of us true, holy priests, sanctified by Christ's blood, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and consecrated in baptism. On the basis of this our inborn, hereditary priestly honor and attire we are present, have, as Revelation 4[:4] pictures it, our golden crowns on our heads, harps and golden censers in our hands; and we let our pastor say what Christ has ordained, not for himself as though it were for his person, but he is the mouth for all of us and we all speak the words with him from the heart and in faith, directed to the Lamb of God who is present for us and among us, and who according to his ordinance nourishes us with his body and blood. This is our mass, and it is the true mass which is not lacking among us." (LW 38, 208-209, emphasis mine)

Trent said...

"We dare never forget that it is Christ our Lord who takes, blesses, and distributes to us His body and blood."

You might even say, " For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed, " :)
Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

Allen said...

Well written. In my versus populum stance, my hands and the bread are elevated in front of my face. So to with the chalice. So too when the Pax Domini is chanted. In essence you could say Christ stands between the people and the pastor. We must first behold Christ before we can see the other. We cannot behold the other without first beholding Christ.