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 It was also suggested that we should not adopt or adapt outdated Roman rubrics or invent new rubrics where none exist (as in the LSB).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.


Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

The good Deacon writes,

"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 Augustana certainly seems to paint the same picture, when it says, for example,

"among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. For it is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches."

or this,
"the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence."

Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

Likewise, regarding reservation of the blessed Sacrament, I don't think anyone can argue that Dr. Luther advocated consuming the reliquae. There is a fine letter from Dr. Luther to Wolferinus where the blessed Reformer instructs to consume what remains after the service. Blessed Chemnitz advocated the same. But nowhere do they suggest that somehow our Lord's presence wears off, evaporates, or is merely dependent on the final benediction and accompanying Amem. Simply put, that would turn the sacramental action into a magical incantation. The sacramental action, as Dr. Luther describes it, involves eating and drinking EVERYTHING, not just eating and drinking during a set ritualized time frame.

Blessed Chemnitz in his Examin, in keeping with catholic practice, allows for reservation of the Sacrament for the sake of communion - of course not for the sake of worship, processions, and so forth. Too many are treating the sacramental action of Holy Spirit through the Word like a chemistry experiment.

Rev. William Weedon has a post related to this from back in 2007.

William Weedon said...

And Pr. Harju has an absolutely outstanding post on the topic:

Huge Amen to what he wrote there, eh, Deacon?