St Francis Q&A

Friday, June 06, 2008

Power, intention, and words

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm. We will offer this holy hour for the men who will be ordained transitional deacons tomorrow (including our seminarian from the summer of 2006, Dan Gallaugher).
Since my post on Tuesday, there has been an additional comment which questioned the substantial difference between Catholic and Lutheran eucharistic theology. I wish to make three main points of difference so that we’re all clear. Before that, though, please know that my comments are not intended to personally offend or disrespect any Protestants. My intention is to present the truth about where we are as a Church and how we got here. There are obvious disagreements about the truth in regards to Church doctrine and history between Catholics and Protestants which can be very intense. As a Church, we have great respect for our Protestant brethren and laud them for many things. My hope is that we continue to enter into this discussion through an objective lens, so that we may all recognize the Truth when it’s being presented.

Objectively speaking, the host and wine do not become the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lutheran (or any Protestant) service. For consecration to occur, the minister must a) have the power to consecrate, b) the intention to consecrate, and c) use the words of institution (“this is my Body…this is the cup of my Blood”).

Regarding the first point, Lutheran (and all Protestant) ministers don’t have the power to consecrate because they have not been validly given the power. In other words, they have not been validly ordained. The Apostles who had been given the power to consecrate, forgive sins, baptize, etc. by Christ passed on their power to the next priests through valid ordination. The next priests (actually bishops) passed to the next, and so forth. This unbroken line of valid ordination is part of the Apostolic Tradition. Valid ordinations, then, are traced back to the Apostles.

Unfortunately, Lutheran ministers (and their predecessors) broke from this line of valid ordinations; they left the Apostolic Tradition in starting their own tradition. Even though the first Lutheran bishops / priests were validly ordained Catholic priests (Martin Luther, e.g.), they did not validly ordain other ministers.

On the second point (about whether or not Lutheran ministers have the intention to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ), I ask any of our Protestant bloggers to ask your pastor if he /she truly intends to consecrate the bread and wine into the real flesh and blood of Christ… corpus Christi. Will it truly become the same flesh and blood that was present on the Cross, as Jesus indicates in John 6:51 – “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”? As I’ve written before, this line teaches us that the same flesh and blood that is present on the altar is the same flesh and blood that was present on the Cross.

Paul Whitcomb, a Catholic convert from Protestantism, has written the following about when he first began to realize there was a difference between Catholic and Protestant teachings on the Eucharist. He writes about how he approached Protestant ministers with regards to their intention:

“ Some ministers do indeed call their communion bread and wine the real Body and Blood of Christ, but invariably, when I pinned them down, asking if by ‘real’ they meant corporeal, they said no. Invariably, when I asked if one receives a new influx of divine grace at their Holy Communion service, the answer was: ‘No, we believe that Holy Communion is not productive of grace but is a reflection of the grace already present in the soul through faith,’ or words to that effect. Such an answer is, of course, tantamount to rejecting the doctrine of the Real Presence, for to receive the real Christ is to receive His real grace, not a mere reflection of His grace.” (“Confession of a Roman Catholic”, p.44).

Regarding the words spoken during the Lutheran service, they might very well be the words of institution (some Protestant denominations have the exact words, some do not). But, as has been presented on here, the words of institution, ‘this is my body’, are not generally accepted by Lutherans as being the exact words of Christ at the Last Supper. Martin Luther changed the words to ‘this symbolizes my body’ even though he believed in the Real Presence on some level (he believed that Christ is spiritually present; the Church’s response has been that Christ is truly, really, and substantially present).

Finally, one last point of difference is about what happens to the host after the service. In the Catholic Church, any extra hosts that have been consecrated during the Mass are reposed in the main tabernacle and are treated with great reverence because each one is believed to be the Body of Christ. Again, to our Protestant bloggers, please ask your pastor what happens to any extra hosts that were consecrated during your service once the service has ended. I know one Lutheran who asked her pastor this question, and he told her they were put back into a bag and placed in a closet because they are just pieces of bread again.


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