The cup for the laity

The communion practice of the Roman Catholic Church, up until Vatican II, was for the priests to drink the wine.  Laypeople were only given the bread.

Brian Stiller, writing on the Christianity Today site, reflects on Luther and the Reformation as he sits in the City Church of Wittenberg.

He sees a detail in Lucas Cranach’s altarpiece–one that I hadn’t noticed before– that gives him a flash of insight into the Reformation.

Now Luther would not be happy with all of what the author says about Holy Communion, since Stiller believes that the Lord’s Supper consists of symbols rather than the true Body and Blood of Christ.  Stiller even extrapolates his conclusions into meals in general.

But he does pick up the detail that Luther is sitting around the Table at the Last Supper with Christ and His disciples.  And Luther gives the cup to a servant–a layman, not an apostle.  Stiller explains why this is so significant and why offering the cup to laypeople–imaged here on the altar–is so expressive of the Gospel as proclaimed in the Reformation.

UPDATE, FURTHER THOUGHTS:  We shouldn’t take this privilege for granted.  John Hus was burned at the stake largely because he insisted on giving laypeople the Blood of Christ. For us laypeople to receive the Cup means that we are all priests (the doctrine of vocation) and that there is no spiritual superiority of one caste or another in Christ’s Kingdom. And that He poured out His blood for all.

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Making church buildings beautiful again

Version 2 Church buildings used to be made so that they would be beautiful.  This was true not only of Gothic cathedrals but also of small Protestant churches, whose simplicity and lack of adornment had a classic, elegant aesthetic impact of their own.

This is not so true of churches built over the last 50 years or so.  They tend to be utilitarian, plain, drab, unsymmetrical, and often, well, ugly.  But this appears to be changing.

I discuss what happened after the jump.  I also tell about this striking example of contemporary church architecture that we saw in Finland, which reflects the history, struggles, and victories of confessional Lutheranism in Scandinavia. [Read more…]

Actors vs. Trump

Meryl_Streep_At_The_2014_SAG_Awards_(12024455556)_(cropped)Meryl Streep took the occasion of her lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes to give a blistering speech against president-elect Donald Trump.  See Mollie Hemingway’s critique of her speech.

Now actors have the same right as all other citizens to criticize their public officials.  This, along with other recent “public service” spots featuring actors and their political causes, does raise another issue:  acting outside of one’s vocation.
Actors have the vocation of effectively speaking lines written by someone else.  (It has always bothered me that actors get all of the attention in Hollywood, while those who write the scripts that they recite remain largely unknown by the public.)  They generally have no particular expertise in other areas, yet they regularly testify at Congressional hearings on a wide range of non-acting topics. [Read more…]

The Berenstain Bears go Christian

The Berenstain Bears have been children’s favorites since the first title was published in 1962.  The son of the original cartoonist took over the franchise in the 1980s.  Mike Berenstain is a Christian, and he brings out explicit Christian themes in one line of the books published by Zondervan.  Go here for those titles.

A Jewish dad writes about why his four-year-old loves the Bears in the New York Times Magazine.  He was taken aback by the Christian titles, though he doesn’t mind them too much.  Read what he says after the jump.

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Did the Greeks make China’s terracotta army?

Archaeologists have discovered European DNA at the site where those 8,000 lifesize terracotta soldiers guard the tomb of China’s first Emperor.  They are concluding that Greek sculptors may have been involved with their creation, especially since the realistic statues correspond to Greek styles and techniques.

They were made in the 3rd century B.C., which means that the contact between West and East pre-dated Marco Polo by some 1500 years. The Emperor may have become aware of Greek statuary as a result of Alexander the Great’s march to India a century earlier.

I would say, however, that while the Greeks might have had a role in making the individual statues, the Greeks never used art on such a colossal scale.  Greek sculpture honors the individual.  This army of statues is profoundly collectivist.  So the Chinese can still claim credit.

Photo Credit:  Creative Commons. The Chronicles of Mariane.

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Tattooing Christians for 700 years

We have blogged about the way Coptic Christians in Egypt use tattoos as a way to identify themselves as Christians to their Muslim neighbors.  How else can Islamic mobs know whom to attack, since the Copts look the same and speak the same language as any other Egyptians?  The Coptic Christians are in your face about it, tattooing a cross on their wrists or arms for all to see.

It turns out that some Coptic tattoo artists migrated in the Middle Ages to Jerusalem.  It became a custom for medieval pilgrims to the Holy City to get a tattoo as an indelible souvenir.

To this very day, the Razzouk family has a tattoo business in Jerusalem, one that has been handed down generation after generation since the year 1300!  You can go there to get a tattoo of a Jerusalem Cross, or St. George & the Dragon, or other traditional designs that are first stamped on your skin by templates that are centuries old.

Read the report, excerpted after the jump, and go to the link to see the tattoos. [Read more…]