Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Explanation of the Common Service — Part 4

by Douglas Lindee

In Part 3 of this series of blog posts, after having introduced the little book, Explanation of the Common Service, posted its FOREWORD and INTRODUCTION in Part 1, and proceeded in Part 2 by beginning the Explanation of THE ORDER OF The Service, from the Invocation through the Preparation, we continued with the Explanation by posting from its contents regarding The Service. Part 3, however, only included an explanation of the first of the two main divisions of The Service: The Office of the Word. With this post, Part 4, we conclude the explanation of the THE ORDER OF The Service, proper, by posting from the Explanation regarding the second of the two main divisions of The Service: The Holy Supper.

As noted in the Q & A, below, the Lord's Supper is the most sacred, and solemn act of all Christian worship. It is the the personal communion of the living Savior with his people. All the preceding parts of The Service point to this communion. The Invocation and Preparation, through the Office of the Word, proclaims the Gospel — Christ! — to the assembly, to all at once. As Luther says, "whoever grasps it, grasps it." In the Supper, Christ is proclaimed to each individual, and the words "for you" couldn't be more personal.

Here are some thoughts worth considering as you read about The Holy Supper:
    Isn't it interesting that, in order to make the Divine Service "real, relational, and relevant" for the modern individual, advocates of the Church Growth Movement (CGM) invariably emphasize and elevate the sacrificial elements of the service, supposedly making the service more personal on the basis of the worshiper's experience? This is an entirely anti-sacramental viewpoint, is it not? As suggested in Part 3, CGM Lutherans, taking their cue from modern Evangelicals and other sectarians of Calvinist and Arminian influence, seem to get away with this by confusing sacrifice with sacrament -- by confusing the "Law and Gospel of liturgical life," so to speak. The fact is, the most intimate and personal communion we have with Christ is not our personal experience in the sacrificial part of the Divine Service, but is in the sacrament of Holy Communion, wherein Christ both physically and spiritually joins Himself with the individual, personally assuring him that his sins are forgiven and that he is God's own dear child. There is no more personal "experience of Christ" than this. Moreover, as the Explanation indicates, our most intimate and personal union with one another also occurs in the sacrament of Holy Communion, for being all partakers, in it we are made one. How can "fellowship activities" replace that?

    Given this, what consequence for the worshiper might result from omitting the Lord's Supper from the Divine Service? Are we really missing anything when the Sacrament is not offered? Is something equivalent offered in its place? Is something less than equivalent elevated to its place? If the worshiper is repeatedly robbed of this personal union with Christ, might it be expected that he would seek to "personalize" the Service in other ways -- such as through entertainment and other forms of anthropocentric pleasure? Yesterday, in a comment he posted in response to the blog post What is REAL Lutheran Worship anyway?, Rev. David Jay Webber (ELS) included a link to an essay he wrote, entitled Communion Frequency in the Lutheran Confessions. In it, he offers the following thought:

      In North America today, the rubrics for the main Sunday Service in most Lutheran hymnals still give directions about what to do “When there is no Communion.” This is true of Lutheran Book of Worship (used in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada),51 Lutheran Worship (used in the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church -- Canada),52 and Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (used in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod).53 This is not true, however, of the new hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, where directions are given instead about what to do “When there are no communicants.”54 This shows a marked improvement in theological and liturgical understanding, and a very welcome return to the thought patterns of the Lutheran Reformation. The day may come when this understanding is reflected throughout the orthodox Lutheran world, and when there will no longer be any such thing as a “non-Communion Sunday” for Lutheran parishioners

        who hunger for Christ’s body and blood and who are prepared to receive it. The fact that some of those present do not wish to receive should not prevent others from receiving. ... The Eucharist Service is to be the chief Sunday service as a matter of course, and the people are to be encouraged to commune.55

    Might such an attitude also result in an abatement of desire that human pleasure encroach upon, or even dominate, the Divine Service?

NOTE: Other installments in this series can be found at the following links:IN ADDITION, this entire series was republished as the single blog post,along with the following companion blog posts:

An Explanation of the Common Service (1908)
Board of Publication of the General Council of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America

To the
Young Lutheran who asks
The Meaning of the
Beautiful Liturgy of
His church


ORDER OF The Service OR The Communion: The Service Proper (continued)

42. What are the general divisions of the Service?
    I. The Office of the Word
    II. The Holy Supper

The Holy Supper

NOTE: We now come to the most sacred, and solemn act of all Christian worship — the personal communion of the living Saviour with each individual heart. The parts which precede are preparatory to what is about to take place.

The first part, called the Office of the Word, of which the Gospel is the center, is not an independent service. It is the Good News, the forgiveness of sins, proclaimed to all; while in the second part, the Holy Supper, the Good News is applied to each soul.

115. How did the ancients emphasize the peculiar sacredness of this part of the Service?
The first part, a service of teaching, was known as the "Mass of the Catechumens." At its conclusion the Catechumens were dismissed with special prayers. The second part was known as the "Mass of the Faithful." To this, none but communicants were admitted. The doors were closed and guarded, so that no profane eye might behold the sacred Mystery. An old liturgy tells us in what spirit the people must approach the Holy Table: "Let no one have aught against anyone; let no one come in hypocrisy; let us stand upright before the Lord with fear and trembling."

116. What shall be the attitude of the Minister and the Congregation at the beginning of the Holy Supper?
While the hymn is sung, the Minister shall go to the Altar, make ready the Communion vessels, and prepare for the administration of the Holy Communion. The hymn ended, the Congregation shall rise, and stand to the end of the Agnus Dei.

117. What are the main divisions of the Office of the Holy Supper?
    Part I. The Preface.
    Part II. The Administration.
    Part III. The Post Communion.

Part I — The Preface

118. What does the word "preface" mean?
A foreword, an introduction — from the Latin praefatio, a saying beforehand.

119. What is the nature of the Preface?
It is a High Thanksgiving.

120. What are its divisions?
    1. The Salutation and Response.
    2. The Prefatory Sentences.
    3. The Eucharistic Prayer.
      (a) The Common Preface.
      (b) The Proper Preface.
    4. The Sanctus.

The Salutation and Response
The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit.

121. Where in the Scriptures are the Salutation and Response found?
The Salutation is found in Luke 1:28, and in Ruth 2:4;
The Response, in II Timothy 4:22.

122. To whom is the Salutation spoken?
To the Congregation.

123. What is its purpose?
To greet the worshipers with a blessing; to invite attention; to incite to devotion; and to suggest the coming act of worship.

124. What does the Salutation further imply?
That the Lord must first come to us before we can go to Him; as much as to say, "The Lord be with you and in you and help you to pray." Read Romans 8:26.

125. What is the meaning of the Response?
The people ask a blessing upon the Minister, and pray that the Lord may give him a devout mind, and guide him in the coming ministrations.

The Prefatory Sentences
"Lift up your hearts. We lift them up unto the Lord.
Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God. It is meet and right so to do."

126. What is the significance of these Sentences?
From the most ancient times these Sentences opened the Service of the Holy Eucharist. They stand in close connection with the Salutation and Response, and give specific direction to the Congregation's devotions which, in view of the exalted nature of the acts of worship which follow, should be full of joy and gratitude.

127. What is the meaning of the first Sentence?
"Lift up your hearts" (Latin, Sursum corda) that is: Think of nothing earthly, but arise, go to the very throne of God and offer prayer and praise; for, not only is Christ present in the Sacrament, but He also sits at the right hand of God. This lifting up of hearts finds its fullest expression in the words of the Sanctus.

128. How do the people respond to the Sursum Corda?
They accept the Minister's summons, and answer with assurance, "We lift them (our hearts) up unto the Lord."

129. What is the meaning of the second Sentence?
"Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God" (Latin, Gratias agamus), that is: After leading the people to the throne of God, the minister rouses their minds to a sense of His benefits and suggests the nature of the prayer they are to offer.

130. And how do the people take this?
In the Response, "It is meet and right so to do," they accept the thanksgiving thought, and declare their readiness to join in the great Eucharistic Prayer which follows.

The Eucharistic Prayer
"It is truly meet, right, and salutary, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Everlasting God:

"For in the mystery of the Word made flesh, Thou hast given us a new revelation of Thy glory; that seeing Thee in the Person of Thy Son, we may be drawn to the love of those things which are not seen.

"Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious Name; evermore praising Thee, and saying:"

131. What is the nature of the Eucharistic Prayer?
It is a prayer of Thanksgiving — in imitation of our Lord who gave thanks when He took the bread and the cup to institute the Holy Communion. The Church has always said grace, or rendered thanks before partaking of the Holy Supper (I Cor. 10:16). This Thanksgiving was called by the Greeks Eucharistia, hence the term Eucharist used for the whole office. The Eucharistic Prayer is the principal division of the Preface, and gives it its chief significance.

132. What should be the posture of the Minister during this prayer?
While offering this prayer, he should by all means face the altar. No one turns his back to the table when he asks the blessing.

133. To whom is the Eucharistic Prayer addressed?
To God the Father.

134. What are the parts of this beautiful prayer?
It is composed of:
    1. The Common Preface, which consists of two minor parts —
      (a) The General Thanksgiving: "It is truly meet," etc.
      (b) The Conclusion: "Therefore with angels," etc.

    2. The Proper Preface, which, when used, is inserted between (a) and (b) in the Common Preface.
135. What is the meaning of the General Thanksgiving or first part of the Common Preface?
It is a testimony or acknowledgment to God for all His blessings, natural and spiritual. In olden times it was very lengthy, the thought beginning with creation. Read Psalm 26:6-7.

136. Explain the Proper Preface?
The Proper Preface is a special thanksgiving to our heavenly Father for the blessing of redemption in Christ Jesus.

137. How does the Proper Preface vary?
With the season of the Church year. It thus brings the Communion Office into close connection with the Service of the Day, and makes each of the chief elements of redemption, in turn, the reason of the Eucharistic Prayer. For example, in the Proper Preface for Christmas, given above, the Incarnation of our Lord is made the leading thought of the Prayer.

138. How do you explain the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer?
The conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer is also the introduction to the Sanctus. Although addressed to God in prayer, it also serves as a summons to all who have "lifted up their hearts" to join heaven's worshipers in singing, as one family, the Seraphic hymn. Read Ephesians 3:14-15.

The Sanctus
"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory; Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."

139. What does the word Sanctus mean?
It is the Latin for Holy. Other titles of this hymn are Ter Sanctus and Trisagium, both meaning Thrice Holy.

140. What is the Sanctus?
It is the great hymn of the Communion Service – the very climax of the Thanksgiving.

141. What are its divisions and whence derived?
It consists of two verses, of which —
    The first is from Isaiah the prophet, who heard it sung by the Seraphim before the throne of God. Read Isaiah 6:2-3.

    The second was sung by the multitudes which went with Christ on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:19). The same words are in the hymn (Psalm 118) which our Saviour is supposed to have chanted with the disciples at the institution of the Holy Supper.

    The first is heaven's hymn of praise. The second is earth's hymn of praise. Thus is fulfilled, "Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory."

    Each verse closes with Hosanna in the highest.
142. State the nature of the first verse.
It is an exalted strain of praise, in which the saints on earth join the angels in heaven in declaring God's perfection, and in proclaiming that His glory as manifested in Creation and Redemption fills all things. This verse recalls the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, "At all times and in all places."

143. What is suggested by the second verse of the Sanctus?
In the second verse — also called Benedictus — we hail Christ as our Saviour and Deliverer. These words resolve the whole Sanctus into a hymn of praise to Christ as God (John 12:41). We here look forward to the Administration, in which the Lord comes to each one.

144. What is the meaning of Hosanna in the highest?
    Hosanna means, Save, I pray.
    In the highest, in high heaven.
    This expression is an exclamation of the most intense feeling and gives utterance to the loftiest praise.
    It is also explained as a cry similar to God save the King!
    What a welcome to Christ our King!
145. Why may the Exhortation, which is inserted at this point in the Service, be omitted?
Because it makes a break in the Service, and this is not the place for preaching.

146. What was the original purpose of the Exhortation?
It was prepared by Volprecht of Nuremberg (1525) for the purpose of teaching the people, who had been reared under Romish error, the true meaning of the Lord's Supper.

147. Why may it be regarded as belonging to the Preface?
    Because it is preparatory in character;
    Because in some Lutheran Church Orders it took the place of the Preface; and
    Because like some of the ancient Prefaces it serves the purpose of teaching.
Note: This truly is the Mass or Service of the Faithful. The guest at the Lord's Table is not so much the poor Publican pleading for mercy, as the justified child of God, who boldly draws near to the throne of grace, lifts up his heart unto the Lord (Prefatory Sentences), gives thanks to his reconciled God (Eucharistic Prayer), and praises Him in exalted strains (Sanctus). Filled with this spirit, Christ's brethren are truly ready to sup with Him.

Part II — The Administration

148. Name the several parts of the Administration.
    1. The Lord's Prayer.
    2. The Words of Institution.
    3. The Pax.
    4. The Agnus Dei.
    5. The Distribution.
    6. The Blessing.

The Lord's Prayer
"OUR Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen."

149. Why does the Minister precede the Lord's Prayer with the words "Let us pray"?
For the reason that, although the Lord's Prayer is recited by the Minister, it is the self-consecratory prayer of all the people, as they declare and confirm by singing Amen at the close.

150. Why did the early Church introduce this prayer into the Communion Service?
    On account of its sacredness.
      (a) From ancient times it has always been regarded as a divine and spiritual form of prayer, which can never fail to move our heavenly Father, because His Son taught us thus to pray. On this Cyprian says beautifully: "What prayer can be more spiritual than that which was given us by Christ, by Whom also the Holy Spirit was sent? What petition more true before the Father than that which came from the lips of His Son, Who is the Truth?"

      (b) Its use was esteemed the peculiar privilege of true believers. Hence it was said, not in the first part of the worship, where we usually have it, but in the Communion Service, from which the heathen and the catechumens (the unbaptized) were excluded. The latter were strictly forbidden to utter it. Chrysostom explains thus: "Not until we have been cleansed by the washing of the sacred waters are we able to call God, Father."

151. Is the Lord's Prayer a part of the Consecration of the Elements?
No. Because such a use does not agree with the nature of the Lord's Prayer, nor with the proper nature of a prayer of consecration, nor with the view of the Ancient Church.

The Words of Institution
"Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it and gave it to His disciples, saying. Take, eat; this is My Body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance of Me.

"After the same manner, also, when He had supped, He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My Blood, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins; this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me."

152. Where are the Words of Institution recorded?
In the Gospels according to St. Matthew 26:26-28, St. Mark 14:22-24, St. Luke 22:19-20, and in St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 11:23-25.

153. What does our Lord here teach?
    I. The Sacramental Use – "Take, eat," "Drink ye all of it."
    II. The Sacramental Presence – "This is My body," "This cup is the New Testament in My blood."
    III. The Sacramental Benefit – "Which is given for you," "Which is shed for you and for many."
    IV. The Sacramental Institution – "This do in remembrance of Me," "This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me."
154. What may be said of the Sacramental Use?
Our Lord's words "Take, eat" and "Drink of it" plainly teach that the Sacrament is not complete until used as He directed. As Luther in the Small Catechism says, "The bodily eating and drinking are among the chief things in the Sacrament."

155. What may be said of the Sacramental Presence?
When our Lord said "This is My body" and "This is My blood," He declared unmistakably that when His people eat and drink the sacramental bread and wine, He gives them His true body and blood.

156. What may be said of the Sacramental Benefit?
The words "Given for you" and "Shed for you for the remission of sins" teach:
    - That Christ takes our place. He suffered death in our stead.
    - That we take His place. We are counted righteous for His sake.
    - This is the taking away or "remission of sins" – the sacramental benefit which belongs to every communicant who believes Christ's words.
157. What may be said of the Sacramental Institution?
When Jesus said "This do in remembrance of Me," He commanded His people to follow His example by observing the Sacrament, that is, by taking bread and wine, asking a blessing, giving and eating, and thus showing His death till He come.

158. What does St. Paul say about the Sacramental Fellowship?
He teaches that by our communion with the one Lord in this Sacrament we are also brought into the closest fellowship with one another. "For," says he, "we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." I Cor. 10:17.

This same thought is beautifully brought out in an ancient Christian writing, called the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," belonging to the middle of the second century, as follows: "Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom, for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever."

159. Were not Christ's Words intended only for the first administration?
The words which Christ uttered at the Institution made the Holy Supper a sacrament not only for that time, but they endure, have authority, and operate for all time, i. e., "till He come."

160. Why is the recitation of Christ's Words called the Consecration?
Consecration signifies a setting apart for a holy use. It is by means of Christ's words that the bread and wine on the altar are set apart for a sacred use; and that the eating and drinking of the bread and wine become a holy ordinance – a sacrament.

161. Why do the rubrics direct the Minister to take the Plate and the Cup when he recites the Consecration?
It is done in imitation of the action of our Lord, Who took the bread and the cup and blessed. Also to show the people that this bread and this wine are now being consecrated for this administration of the Sacrament.

The Pax
"The Peace of the Lord be with you alway."

162. What precedes the distribution?
A short benediction called the Pax (Latin for Peace). It is the greeting of our risen Lord to His people who are about to approach the altar to partake of His glorified body. Read John 14:27; 20:19-21.

The Agnus Dei
"O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace. Amen."

163. What is the Agnus Dei?
It is an ancient morning hymn – a modified form of a part of the Gloria in Excelsis, founded on John 1:29. Since about the year 700 it has been in use in the Communion Office.

The title of the hymn is taken from the opening words of its Latin form, Agnus Dei, that is, Lamb of God.

164. When should it be sung?
It may immediately precede the Distribution, or more properly, it may be used at the beginning of the Distribution.

165. How is this hymn related to the Sacrament?
In the Words of Institution, which Christ spoke after the supper of the Passover lamb, He announces that through His death He becomes the true Paschal Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. As such we thrice confess Him in the Agnus Dei (John 1:29). Read also Exodus 12:21-23; I Cor. 5:7; I Peter 1:19-20.

166. For what benefit do we ask in this hymn?
We pray here to the Lamb of God, Who is about to impart His body and blood, that He would grant us the mercy and peace which He has obtained for us through His death. Read Ephes. 2:13-17.

The Distribution
"Take and eat, this is the Body of Christ, given for thee.
Take and drink, this is the Blood of the New Testament, shed for thy sins.
The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ and His precious Blood strengthen and preserve you in true faith unto everlasting life."

167. Is this part of the Service important?
It is the most important act in the whole Service, because in it takes place the closest communion between Christ and His people. The believer now reaches the loftiest summit of all worship. He is as near heaven as he can be in this life.

168. What takes place in the Distribution?
The body and blood of Christ are given to the communicants with the bread and wine.

169. What is the purpose of the words used at the Distribution?
The minister thereby calls to the mind of each communicant:
    That he is now receiving Christ's body and blood;
    That this body and blood were given for his redemption;
    That the Gospel promise of forgiveness is now applied.
170. How does the Minister dismiss the communicants from the altar?
The Distribution closes as it began, with a benediction. This blessing also ends the Administration.

171. What is the significance of this benediction?
It is an assurance that the blessed Lord, who has just imparted Himself to His people, will strengthen and preserve the faith with which they received the Sacrament, and without which it would become not a blessing but a curse.

172. If it should happen that the bread and wine on the altar be spent before all have communed, what shall be done?
If the consecrated Bread or Wine be spent before all have communed, the Minister shall consecrate more, saying aloud so much of the Words of Institution as pertains to the element to be consecrated.

Part III — The Post Communion

173. What is the third part of the Holy Supper?
The Post Communion, literally, the After Communion, consisting of
    I. The Nunc Dimittis.
    II. The Prayer of Thanksgiving.
    III. The Benediction.
174. What is the general purpose of the Post Communion?
To express our grateful joy for the heavenly food received in the Holy Supper. It is therefore unseemly to leave the House of God, as is frequently done, before offering this Thanksgiving.

The Nunc Dimittis
"LORD, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace: according to Thy word; For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation: which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles: and the glory of Thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen."

175. What is the Nunc Dimittis?
It is a hymn of joyful thanksgiving for the salvation manifested and bestowed in Christ Jesus. It was first used by the aged Simeon when he saw the infant Saviour in the Temple (Luke 2:29-32). It derives its name from the first words of the Latin version.

176. What is the significance of the Nunc Dimittis here?
It is the closing hymn of the Communion and accords with the practice of our Lord (Matt. 26:30). That for which the believer has come into the Sanctuary has been received in all its fullness, and he now feels himself at peace with God and declares his readiness to depart.

The Prayer of Thanksgiving
"O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. And His mercy endureth for ever."

"WE give thanks to Thee, Almighty God, that thou hast refreshed us through this salutary gift; and we beseech Thee, that of Thy mercy Thou wouldst strengthen us through the same, in faith toward Thee, and in fervent love toward one another, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen."

177. How is the Prayer of Thanksgiving introduced?
By the Versicle and Response, taken from the opening verses of Psalms 105, 106, 107, 118 and 136.

178. What is the significance of this Versicle?
It is a bidding to the people to unite in the Prayer of Thanksgiving which follows.

179. What is the purpose of the Prayer of Thanksgiving?
Just as we offer thanks after meat, we here express our gratitude to God for the refreshment we have experienced by partaking of His heavenly food. Read John 6:30-34,47-58.

We then pray, that this food may enable us to have a right faith toward God and an ardent love toward our fellow men.

The Benedicamus
"The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit.
Bless we the Lord. Thanks be to God."

180. Why use the Salutation in this place?
It introduces the Benedicamus, and serves to prepare the hearts of the people for the final blessing.

181. What is the significance of the Benedicamus and Response?
The Service now draws to a close with a strain of praise and thanksgiving for the fullness of God's grace which has been unfolded throughout the worship.

Note. — In the mediaeval church the words "Bless we the Lord" were sometimes used in place of "Go, you are dismissed" as a formula of dismissal. The same formula closed the Matins when not conducted by an ordained Minister, the benediction being omitted. We also find "Bless the Lord" as a doxology at the close of each book in the Psalter. See Psalm 41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; 150:6.

The Benediction
"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."

182. What is the Benediction?
It is the final blessing of the people, commanded by God (Num. 6:22-26), and always regarded by the Church as one of the most solemn parts of the Service. Says an ancient writer: "When the Benediction is pronounced, you should incline both head and body, for the blessing which is given you is the dew and rain of heaven."

183. What is the nature of the Benediction?
It is not a mere pious wish, but is the actual impartation of a blessing from God to the believing congregation, as we are assured in Numbers 6:27, "They (the priests) shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them."

Because of the singular pronoun "Thee," it is highly appropriate as the conclusion of the Communion, in which through the Sacrament, the Lord has bestowed His grace upon each believer.

184. Explain more fully the meaning of this solemn blessing.
    The first verse – "The Lord bless thee," etc. – offers God's blessing and watchful protection.

    The second verse – "The Lord make His face shine," etc. – announces the blessed favor and mercy of God. Our sins have invited the displeasure and frowns of our heavenly Father, but through forgiveness in Christ Jesus communion is restored and God now smiles upon us. Read Isaiah 59:2.

    The third verse – "The Lord lift up," etc. – assures us of God's own love. "Lifting up one's countenance or eyes upon another" is an ancient form of speech for "bestowing one's love, for gazing lovingly and feelingly upon another, as a bridegroom upon the bride, or a father upon his son." Having received God's grace in Word and Sacrament, we are now assured of the peace that passeth all understanding.

    This we believingly accept in the final.


    [For remarks on the closing silent prayer see Quest. 114]

1 comment:

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

The question was a little confusing to me, but I do agree that,
"The fact is, the most intimate and personal communion we have with Christ is not our personal experience in the sacrificial part of the Divine Service, but is in the sacrament of Holy Communion, wherein Christ both physically and spiritually joins Himself with the individual, personally assuring him that his sins are forgiven and that he is God's own dear child."

Most definitely, no one can bring themselves forgiveness from their own sins; no human can save himself from himself.

We receive God's gifts as God gives them. Faith comes from God, we cannot believe anything unless God creates faith in our hearts. Without faith we cannot even receive Holy Communion, nor should we be joined with others who have no faith or who do not truly understand what we "true believers" are receiving.

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