Notes on the Liturgy #16 — Preface and Proper Preface

(One of the goals of Brothers of John the Steadfast is to train the Brothers in good practice and theology. This article is one in a series that teaches about the liturgy.

These articles were initially intended to be put into bulletins or read during the service to educate the laity on the different parts of the service. They were therefore purposefully made short.

Notes on the Liturgy #16 — Preface and Proper Preface

It has been said, “Like small steps, the Preface (LW pg. 170, TLH pg 24) moves us from that part of the service that centered on the Word of God (readings, sermon) toward that part of the service that centered on the meal Christ instituted (Meaningful Worship, Brauer).”

Let me break up the Preface into three sections.

  1. The Preface begins with a salutation, “The Lord be with you. And also with you.” Earlier these same words occurred before the readings. Now they occur before Communion. Why? The salutation focuses us where God is for us and how He comes to us — in Word and Sacrament. “The Lord be with you” focuses the attention of the congregation on the body and blood of Christ that is about to be given them for the remission of sins. The congregation responds to the pastor by praying the samething for him as he prepares the Sacrament. There in Communion God is with us!
  2. The Preface continues with, “Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.” Here we encourage one another to worship God rather than being tied to worldly thoughts (Lamentations 3:41, Ps. 25:1). Origen said a Christian must, “lift up his soul before lifting up his hands; lift up his mind before lifting up his eyes, and, before standing to pray, lift up his spirit from things of earth and direct it to the Lord of all.”
  3. The Preface concludes with, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give Him thanks and praise.” This line recalls Jewish prayer before meals. Also, at the passover, the head of the family would speak similar words. The Scripture points out that when Jesus was celebrating Communion at Passover He gave thanks to God (Luke 22:19, I Cor 11:24). Following Jesus example, we begin Communion with thanks as well. (Luther Reed)

The thanksgiving continues with the Proper Preface which is a prayer thanking God for His various blessings in Christ. The Proper Preface begins with the words, “It is good, right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You…” What follows is based on the season of the church year (see LSB pg. 208 & 216 for general versions).

The conclusion of the Proper Preface reminds us of what is about to happen in this Sacrament, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven…” As Christ comes to us in His body and blood, heaven meets earth, and we join with the entire Christian Church that has gone before us and that will come after us. At that altar, within those communion rails, the entire company of heaven comes down to earth. It is the Christian equivalent of the Jewish temple’s Holy of Holies that the Ark of The Covenant was housed in. In this Sacrament we are truly given a foretaste of the feast that is to come, and we join in the praise that is offered before His throne “…with angels and archangels…”

Previous Notes on the Liturgy —
Introit, Psalm or Hymn
Kyrie and Gloria
Alleluia Verse and other responses
The Hymn and Hymns
The Sermon
The Creeds
The Prayers
The Offering
Preface and Proper Preface
Pre-Communion Prayer & Lord’s Prayer
Communion & the Peace
Agnus Dei
Post Communion Canticle & Collect

You may find all these by looking at our Regular Column on the Explanation of the Divine Service category or by using the shortcut

These notes were originally written in 2001 by Pastor David Oberdieck and have been edited. Thanks to Pastor Mathey for improvements to this segment.

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