Lutheran communion

I have read, many times here, how close the beliefs of Lutherans (LCMS and others) are to Catholic beliefs regarding the Eucharist. Having experienced the LCMS church myself, before I converted, I understand that, from a theological point of view. However, in practice, what I experienced was quite different.

If you were to attend a typical Catholic mass, you see the Body and Blood being handled very carefully and reverently. Everything is carefully rinsed and even the crumbs are accounted for. After mass, the Body and Blood are reposed in safety.

How different it was in the Lutheran church that I attended! They used little plastic cups, which always left behind a little at the bottom of each one, and then tossed them after the service. Sometimes, the stacks of cups spilled onto the floor, but no one seemed concerned. After the service, from what I remember, the Body and Blood were consumed, except for the leftovers in those little cups. Such casual handling of Jesus’ Blood would send most Catholics into conniptions. I understand the Lutheran church does not believe in transubstantiatiation, but if it’s very close, why isn’t communion done in a more reverent manner, at least during the service itself? Is what I observed (in several different churches) unusual? If so, how is it supoosed to be conducted differently?

What was it like in the historical church and when did they change their practices? In Martin Luther’s day, since he was still a priest capable of holding a valid mass, I am guessing he treated the Body and Blood the same as he did when he was still in the Catholic Church. Is that right? I know that the Episcopal and Anglican churches are very close in their beliefs as well and reverent about handling the Body and Blood, both during and after the service.

For those who speak of the possible union or mutual recognition between the Lutheran and Catholic Churches, wouldn’t communion practices have to change in order to foster a reverence in the congregations?

I do hope and pray for a tighter bond between Lutherans and Catholics and that led me to wonder about communion practices in the Lutheran church and if they might change.

Can that be said to be universal? I recall an account of luther eating the host as it was dropped on to the floor and most lutherans here speak reverently of the Eucharist. I personally couldn’t imagine any Orthodox church treat the eucharist in such a fashion.

Interesting question.

Assuming such behavior were universal in Lutheranism, I think it generally points to the main difference if theology. I believe the Lutheran theology is Consubstantiation. This says that the bread and wine remain with the blood and body of Christ after consecration. Thus, during the Eucharist meal, Lutherans would hold the same reverence for the body and blood of Christ received during Communion. However, once the sacrament is over, the wine and bread are not viewed as Christs Real Presence, but are once again simply the bread and wine - the body and blood of Christ having been consumed already. Im not saying this explanation is the actual theology, but this slight difference between Consubstantiation and Transubstantiation could seem to explain the practical effect in behavior during the liturgy. Consubstantiation seems to have a just a slight mental reservation about the complete Real Presence in its permission to accept that the bread and wine remains present even during consecration. Thus once Communion is over, its simplefor the mind to just see the small remaining parcels of bread and drops of wine as simply that. If they were bread and wine during the consecration, why wouldnt they be just that after the end of the liturgy? Its a simple slide in thinking when you consider how we as Catholics are taught the Real Presence and only the “accidents” of bread and wine remain , and yet so many of us saunter up for Communion like getting in line for movie ticket or to drink at the water fountain. Even though we are taught Transubstantiation, when we dont act like we believe such, and most priests dont do much to correct out thinking. The distinction is that most priests at least act with reverence for the Eucharist. But thats part of their instructions for the liturgy. Who knows what they would do otherwise? In any event, Im guessing the distinction really does stem from the theology of Consubstantiation versus Transubstantiation even if the theology of each does not logically inform the way clergy and laity of each confession act.

The individual cups are a recent and regrettable innovation that is not practiced at all Lutheran churches. I haven’t seen disposable cups at the parishes I have visited but have seen individual glass cups - it would be difficult to reverently and properly clean them, it seems to me.

I have never been present when communion is cleaned up so I guess I can’t answer you there however I do see a few issues that could arise.

Of course we want to treat the LORD’s body and blood with reverence, but somewhere you have to draw a line.

We could lick out the little cups, but there would be minute particles left inside. How to dispose of this because we cant have a million acres to store this stuff in.

Wash and dump- in the drain to the sewer? now that would be insulting.

One could even go so far as to state the obvious… the body and blood goes into this SINNERS body is digested by gastric acids and is converted into waste materials that ends up in the sewer (or septic system in my case)…

It’s kind of an argument that really can go on and on forever if you want it to.

My understanding as a member of the LC-MS is that the elements, at the moment of being taken, are the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. The elements are not transformed but, only with the Word of the Lord (This is my body, this is my blood) is the actual Presence there as we partake.

That being said, wine that has been used is not thrown out and individual cups are cleaned carefully and respectfully.

I’ve gone to a couple of divine services at a NALC church and to one ELCA church here in Colorado Springs. Both Communions were done with chalices instead of individual cups/glasses. All of them were performed very reverently but I’m not sure if they put the incidentals away afterwards like you would see at an RC parish. At my parish we follow very close to how RC’s do. We have people who believe in transubstantiation as well as those who believe in consubstantiation. I think we make it a point to not offend the former. The “consubstantiationists” are ok with that and everyone gets along. I’m paraphrasing here but I like how Paul says we have Christian freedoms – to each to his/her own conscious – but we should not offend our brothers and sisters who look at these things differently.

I have a very devout Catholic friend who told me, God does not expect us to do the impossible. I cannot agree more. So, we who are of either persuasion (trans or con) should be reverent as much as we possibly can. Things like micro-crumbs and micro-droplets from the cup are not always going to be disposed of properly. In those cases, leave the rest up to God. If you are of good conscience in being a consubstantionist, you should be respectful of others’ consciences.

I’m glad the little cups are not used universally. I was wondering if that was common or not.

Thank you for the clarification. During the Last Supper, we can agree that the bread and wine was transformed. To the extent it was transformed seems to be the difference. How we can assume it is no longer transformed at some point? Jesus tells us, “This is my Blood”, but how can we be sure anyting left behind after the sharing of this sacred meal is no longer His Blood? That part doesn’t make sense to me.

In the Catholic Church, the drain used to rinse out the chalice goes straight into the ground, instead of contributing to the city drainage system, just in case some tiny amount remains behind after rinsing. Are Lutheran churches built with such a drain? That would make it easier, but I think the little plastic cups are meant to be disposable. :frowning:

Are those the little plastic cups that they clean or are they metal? I think I saw metal cups somewhere…

Ours has this type of drain, but it was built in the 1870s. My mom was on the altar guild for years in the church where I grew up, I’ll have to ask her about the newer buildings.

I have used both plastic and glass. I’ve never used or seen metal individual cups. In the LC-MC church I attend now on one Sunday we have a choice between a cup or the chalice. On the alternate Sunday we do “intinction” where we dip the wafer into the chalice.

I’m married to a Lutheran Pastor. At our church we indeed go out of our way to consume all the remaining bread and wine. We do not use individual cups either.

The elements are the body and blood of Jesus ONLY at the time we eat it. That’s what we believe in the LCMS. So absent of the partaker the elements are NOT considered the body and blood of Jesus. I always thought we taught consubstantiation but I was told not.

Anyway, while we are careful in handling the elements, we do not worry about dropping or spilling because the elements
are not actually being eaten.

Any LCMS theologians that see an error in my explanation let me know.

From the Augsburg Confession:

.Article X: Of the Lord’s Supper.

1] Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed 2] to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.

Clearly the teaching is distributed, not just receptionism. The body and blood are distributed.


I’m not sure that’s correct - Lutheran pastors bring the Body and Blood to the sick and shut in, and treat the species with respect during such time, and we also have piscinas in our sacristies for proper treatment.


This is not an argument. :slight_smile:

In Catholicism our theology teaches us of transubstantiation. With regard to the consecrated wine (Precious Blood), we sip from a common chalice, and the minister (the priest or extraordinary minister of the Eucharist) wipes the rim of the chalice, moves it around a bit, and then offers it to the next communicant. When the sacred vessel is empty it is brought to a specific area, and after being cleansed, the water is then poured into a special sink called a sacrarium. The sacrarium is designed so that the contents of what is poured in there goes right into the earth. The linen cloths that are used to wipe the chalice are rinsed afterwards, and that water goes into the sacrarium as well.

With regard to the hosts that are consecrated at Mass…Once we receive the consecrated Host, and it is broken down in our digestive system, (about ten minutes) the special Risen Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ is no longer there.

I might as well add this…whether we have a drop of the Precious Blood, or just a crumb of the Sacred Host, we are receiving the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Exactly so. This is the practice at our church as well.

In addition to some congregations using individual cups, over the years since I was confirmed I have noticed that the percentage of communicants receiving on the tongue has dropped from 100% to maybe 10% (and that’s if the weather is nice and us older folks are all able to show up!)

Wrong, friend. :o Jon has already explained that Lutherans condemn the error of Receptionism. Here’s more on why, and how, Lutherans ought to practice. From The Altar Guild Manual: Lutheran Service Book Edition, pertaining to the proper disposal of the elements, typically done via the traditional usage of a piscina and sacrarium:
[INDENT]If any of the Lord’s body and blood remains, they can be disposed of in a number of ways. The best way is to consume the remaining elements, since the Lord said, “Take and eat … Take and drink,” and did not provide for anything that was left over. There is historic precedent for reserving the remaining elements against the next communion. The hosts can be stored in a pyx or ciborium (apart from unconsecrated hosts), the blood of the Lord in a suitable cruet or flagon (apart from unconsecrated wine). What remains in the chalice, however, should either be consumed or poured into the piscine or onto the ground, since there may be crumbs or other foreign matter in it. The reserved elements may then be kept in the sacristy or placed on the altar or credence and covered with a white veil. It is un-Lutheran and irreverent to place unused elements in the trash or to pour the remainder of what is in the chalice or flagon into the common drain.[/INDENT]
And from the Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper, as prepared by the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations:
[INDENT]B.2.c. Post Communion Reverence
The consecrated elements which remain after all have communed should be treated with reverence. This reverence has been expressed by Lutherans in various ways. Some have followed the ancient practice of burning the bread and pouring the wine upon the earth. Others have established a basin and drain-piscina-specifically for disposal for the wine. The elders or altar guild may also return the consecrated bread and wine to specific containers [a pyx or ciborium, separate from unconsecrated elements] for future sacramental use, or the elders and pastor can consume the remaining elements. All of these practices should be understood properly.[/INDENT]

Well, not quite. The Lutheran Reformers wrote about the fact that the Real Presence persists until the Sacramental Act is complete. And when is it complete? When all have consumed and all has been consumed. The idea was to guard against the silly things that would happen pre-Reformation – priests ‘confecting’ the Eucharist not for the consumption of the congregation, but for the private use of certain persons or for solely adoration. If it’s not intended to be used for the purpose the Sacrament was instituted in the first place (“Take, eat…”), it is not serving the purpose of the Sacrament, and therefore is not one. It’s like a child “playing church.”

There’s been a lively discussion 'round these parts of late, but I can tell you with conviction that the LCMS and her theologians do not, and never have, advocated Consubstantiation. We simply teach that the Real Presence exists in a Sacramental Union.

:bigyikes: Did your pastor teach you this? If so, please PM me his name. While some Lutherans have fallen into error on this subject, the LCMS has never waivered from the position of Dr. Luther:
[INDENT]"[T]he Blessed Reformer, Dr. Luther, who when the chalice was spilled during distribution in his later years, actually cut out the part of the lady’s dress on which it was spilled and had the chair where the drops fell also planed and then both fabric and wood shavings burned. [In another instance], when he spilled the chalice and it fell to the floor, he carefully set the chalice back on the altar and got on his hands and knees and lapped it up off the floor like a dog - upon which the congregation burst into tears." -Pr. Will Weedon’s Blog[/INDENT]

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