Communion in both kinds (host and cup) is a staple of the Lutheran reform of the Mass. Somewhere around article twenty-two in the Augsburg Confession of 1530 you’ll find this:

Among us both kinds of the sacrament are given to the laity for the following reason. There is clear order and command of Christ in Matthew 26:27: ‘Drink from it, all of you.’ Concerning the cup Christ here commands with clear words that they all should drink from it.

Catholics got one kind, Lutherans got both. I don’t mean to suggest we Lutherans were smug about it. No, I’ll just say it straight out: We were smug. Why else call our Mass a “reform”?

Alas, all that went away in 1975 when distribution of the cup was permitted at the Catholic Mass. Since the 1500’s communion in one kind was hard lined in Roman circles, largely I suspect because Lutherans did both kinds so Catholics would not. 1975 was a real blow to Lutheran exceptionalism.

But at least on one point both of us—Lutherans and Catholic together—ignored Martin Luther completely. He proposed that altars should be turned around “so the priest could face the people as Christ undoubtedly faced the disciples.” Most of us do that now but it was another blow to Lutheran smugness that we never got around to it until Catholics started it.

Lutheran smugness may be coming back in fashion, however. The Phoenix diocese announced, based on Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s understanding of the new translation of the Mass and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal , the chalice for the laity is going, going, almost gone. The cup is once again to be withheld from the laity, in Phoenix at any rate. A spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said she is unaware of another U.S. diocese enacting such a restriction.

I can’t really think this is a good thing. Ecumenically-minded pastors like me have for years tried to dampen the Lutheran penchant for sacramental self-righteousness. This is a real set-back in our effort toward achieving Lutheran humility.

Articles by Russell E. Saltzman

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