Monday, June 30, 2008

Rubrics, Reservation & Mass

Recently, there has been debate on a particular blog that calls into question the use of medieval rubrics (i.e. hyper-ritualism) in the Lutheran Divine Service. This was followed by post that states that Lutherans do not practice Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. Then followed a postulation that the Real Presence of our Lord's Body and Blood evaporates from the bread and wine at the end of the service (the benediction). This was then followed by a suggestion that is it is (almost) un-Lutheran to refer to the Divine Service as the Mass. I have no problem with the various comments that were posted in reply to these questions; but I do have a few problems with the original statements.

Rubrics, in and of themselves, have no bearing on the validity or efficacy of the sacrament being celebrated. It was also suggested that we should not adopt or adapt outdated Roman rubrics or invent new rubrics where none exist (as in the LSB).

Rubrics are the directions that keep everything on track. They are the outline and framework that defines the basic form and pace of the service. Just because a particular rubric is absent from an approved service book (LSB), this is not to be understood as a suppression of that particular rubric. The historical rubrics of he Western Rite are as much the rubrics of the Lutheran Church as they are of the Roman Church. We can and should use those that instruct and edify; but reject those that compromise the Gospel.

The suggestion that the bread and wine of the Eucharist cease being the Body and Blood of Christ when the Service is concluded has all of the marks of a receptionist theology. Granted, this post began by stating that Lutherans oppose the practice of reserving the Sacrament. It was said that Luther himself forbade the practice.

Even in the light of extra usum nullum sacramentum, I cannot comprehend the idea that the Body and Blood of Christ in His Holy Sacrament has a shelf life or an expiration date. Unless I am persuaded by Scripture that this is indeed so, I prefer to err by reserving the Relique rather than to err by assuming that the Real Presence expires at the end of Mass. Without proof, I will not impose limits upon the word and power of Christ.

To debate the use of the word/name Mass in Lutheran circles is akin to Don Quixote tilting as windmills. Luther and the Reformation fathers retained both the word and the liturgy called the Mass. If we are to be advised to abandon the use of this word because it has too much baggage attached to it, I would suggest that much of this baggage might have been attached thereto by those who do not understand the proper use of this term.