Monday, November 3, 2008

The Secret Eucharistic Prayer

Lutherans do not pray the sacrificial language of the Eucharistic Prayer, and never really have. The Reformers rejected the inclusion of the Verba within prayer for the fact that they understood the Eucharist as God's gift to us, rather than the priest's or the people's offering. In other words, they understood that the Verba (the "words of institution") are proclamation to us, not prayer to God.

This is the simple version, admittedly. But consider any Lutheran liturgy (save some from the ELCA of late), and you will find that the verba are not included within prayer. The LCMS, seeking to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions, have always rejected this.

For example, Lutheran Service Book Setting One has an expanded "Prayer of Thanksgiving" following the Sanctus which immediately precedes the Verba. However, it makes pains to make clear that the prayer is completely over before the Verba are proclaimed: "To You alone, O Father, be all glory, honor, and worship, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen." The Verba are included under the bolded heading "The Words of our Lord." Clearly the LCMS wanted to keep the Verba outside and separate from any Eucharistic Prayer.

Until The Pastoral Care Companion.

See this on p.36 under the rite for "Visiting the Sick and Distressed."

Rubric: If the Lord's Supper is not to be received, the service concludes with the Blessing on page 38.

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places.... Above all, we give thanks for Your boundless love shown to us when You sent Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into our flesh and laid on Him our sin, giving Him into death that we might not die eternally. Because He is now risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, all who believe in Him will overcome sin and death and will rise again to new life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed...

While there is a page turn involved, there is no conclusion to the prayer, nor an amen, nor any distinguishing between the prayer addressed to the Father and the Verba.

What Does This Mean?
Apart from doctrinal review dropping the ball, I'll ask you this question. Leave a comment.


  1. Fr John W Fenton said...

    It means that Luther's Formula Missa was followed as the pattern for the Companion.

  2. William Weedon said...

    Or, more precisely, Petri's Mass of 1531. Christopher, there IS a history in Lutheranism of enclosing the Verba in a prayer of thanksgiving - the entire Swedish Lutheran tradition did so, expanding - as Fr. John noted - on Luther's 1523 Mass. Additionally, the Missouri Synod published in 1969 (Worship Supplement) five Eucharistic prayers - none of which has ever been rescinded. There's a reason that HS 98's numbers began in the 800's - the 700's belong to WS!

  3. William Weedon said...

    P.S. There's a FABULOUS essay on this topic in *Through the Church the Song Goes On* called: Eucharistic Prayer: The Middle Way or some such. It's by some dude that argues that eucharistic prayers (strictly speaking) ARE part of Lutheran liturgical heritage.

  4. Christopher D. Hall said...

    As you both no doubt know, I am not concerned about said Eucharistic prayer.

    But I wonder how this jives with the Confessions and with the vehement objection to this within the LCMS of late.

    Thanks for the input. I, frankly, didn't have time/energy to do more with this yet.

  5. Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

    The confessions do not reject Eucharistic prayers, but only the Roman one. The one from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom receives high marks in the confessions. Where in the confessions do you think Eucharistic prayers are made into a no-no?

    The reformers may have seen the Verba as declaratory, but the FC notes that the Verba is also consecratory within the entire action of the sacramental rite, which makes them a prayer to God, too.

    The LCMS may claim they are trying to be faithful to the confessions, but in this case they are about as successful as they are in upholding Augustana XIV.

    Those in the LCMS who have such a big problem with setting the Verba within a Eucharistic prayer subscribe more to a post-reformation Lutheran theological tradition than they do to the actual Symbols in their own right. I'm suggesting there were a couple strains of thought among Lutherans during the Reformation, one which makes it into the Book of Concord, and another that wins out sometime later. At least, that's my sense of the matter.

  6. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Ben, thanks for your comment. I am a bad Lutheran and don't know the confessions as well as I could. Frankly, I don't know where the Eucharistic prayer is condemned in the confessions, and was too lazy to look it up in prep. for this post.

    I do know what I was taught by die-hards like Feuerhahn, and I know it is condemned among many "confessionals" today. Thank you for the brief corrective of that.

    Could you give a reference to the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the confessions?

  7. Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

    In general, read the Apology XXIV on the Mass. Look particularly at paragraphs 88 and 93. Melanchthon uses the Greek canon in a positive light to demonstrate our complaint against the Roman canon. He does not condemn the Greek canon, but rather endorses it as a good example of proper Christian liturgy.

    In this article Melanchthon denies that the Greeks offer the Body and Blood of Christ for satisfaction of punishments, or that there is any notion of ex opera operato at work among them in their Liturgy. He asserts that the offering is entirely eucharistic, embracing the entire Liturgy with all of its prayers and thanksgivings. What I found uncertain as I quickly checked through this just now is whether Melanchthon claims the Greeks do not offer the Body and Blood of Christ at all, or that they do offer Christ's Body and Blood, but only along with the entire service as a eucharistic sacrifice.

  8. William Weedon said...

    I think what Melanchthon was objecting to was the notion that the sacrifice was being applied for some relief of the dead. He points out that they offer "it" - the sacrifice - for patriarch, prophets, and all the righteous. I.e., those in heaven. His point is that they wouldn't need a propitiatory sacrifice applied to them. He generalizes from this to conclude that it is not the body and blood that are being offered (which is surely THE propitiatory sacrifice). At least that's how I understand his point. Offering for the dead is purgatory is what he's trying to demolish.