(Editor’s Note: I serve a church of 2,000 people. We have lay, male sacristans who assist the pastors with the distribution of Holy Communion. We do not do this lightly and I am sure there will be some discussion on these posts about whether this is acceptable or not, and that is fine, even encouraged. Over the next few weeks and months we will be posting parts of our sacristan rubric which I hope will demonstrate that we do indeed take this quite seriously. I also hope that it will be a model for other congregations that make use of sacristans and will overall, raise the appreciation and reverence for the sacrament for all our readers. This rubric was written under my pastoral supervision by laymen Dave Wohlrab. Dave is a great role model for all laymen, demonstrating how much can be attained with years of study of the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions. To view the entire rubric click here.)
We do not abolish the Mass but religiously retain and defend it. Among us the Mass is celebrated every Lord’s Day and on other festivals, when the Sacrament is made available to those who wish to partake of it, after they have been examined and absolved. We also keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of readings, prayers, vestments, and other similar things. (From the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Art. XXIV. 1; Kolb and Wengert)
This statement from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the second of the confessional documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord assuredly shows that it was never the intention of Luther and his followers to break with the Catholic Church in the West, but to reform it in order that it might proclaim with greater clarity the Biblical doctrine of justification by grace through faith.
At its finest, Lutheran worship is truly catholic, laying claim to all the historic liturgical practices that are evangelical and sound. Lutherans are heir to the great catholic tradition, and our liturgy is a gift that has been handed down to us from Apostolic times and enriched by contributions from Christians of every generation. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession considers maintenance of the historic traditions a matter of confession and a point of Christian pride – We do as well.
A Sacristan’s Prayer before Assisting in the Distribution of the Lord’s Supper
Almighty God, Whose Name is Holy and Reverend, grant us Thy Grace that we may touch Holy Things with reverence and perform the work of our service with faithfulness and devotion that our sacrifice of service may be acceptable unto Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:29 (ESV)
The Holy Things are profaned by them, not knowing what they are… The Mysteries we also therefore celebrate with closed doors, and keep out the uninitiated, not for any weakness of which we have convicted our rites, but because the many are as yet imperfectly prepared for them.
John Chrysostom, (386AD)
Next installment – how faithful liturgical practice is shaped by the theology of the supper.