From eucharistic hymn to Christmas carol

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence” is a hymn about Holy Communion.  But now it keeps showing up as a Christmas carol!  That’s how it’s presented in Christmas concerts, holiday recordings, and on many of the renditions on Youtube.  But it is “an ancient chant of Eucharistic devotion.”

I can see how it would shift over to the Christmas canon.  It has a beautiful, otherworldly melody of the same sort associated with Christmas music.  It talks about how “Christ our God to earth descendeth” and that He was “born of Mary.”  But the point is that “He will give to all the faithful/His own self for heavenly food,” “in the body and the blood.”

But this is quite fitting to associate Holy Communion with Christmas and vice versa.  What other Communion hymns could work as Christmas hymns?  What other Christmas songs could work as Communion songs?

[Read more...]

80 lashes for receiving Communion

Aspects of our faith that are so commonplace that we often take them for granted are serious crimes in other countries, bringing horrible punishments.  Yesterday we blogged about North Korea executing people for simply possessing a Bible.  In Iran, since Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, if you are a Muslim convert, receiving Christ’s blood in the wine of Holy Communion is punishable by 80 lashes.  Evangelism–that is, the crime of spreading Christianity–can mean 3 years and 8 months in prison.  Would we pay prices like that for our Bibles, for Holy Communion, for witnessing to our faith? [Read more...]

Allowing divorced Catholics to take Communion?

Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic hierarchy are reportedly re-considering the practice of denying Communion to Catholics who have  divorced and remarried.

Details after the jump.  Notice in the church debates over the issue how we can see Rome’s teaching that the Sacrament is for those who are holy, rather than for those who need the forgiveness of sins.  We also see Rome’s opposition to divorce, while still allowing divorce-like annulments. [Read more...]

Holy Communion, Culture, & Vocation

We often talk about how God works through material elements in the sacraments to convey His grace in Christ.  But I came across a quotation that adds a dimension I never thought of before.  The water of Baptism is certainly a natural substance, but the bread and wine of Holy Communion do not occur from nature alone.  As James K. A. Smith points out, they require culture.  And I would add, they require vocation.  [Read more...]

On denying the sacrament for “political” reasons

Confessional Lutherans get excoriated for not admitting members of other churches to the Lord’s Supper, though I don’t hear many people complaining when that happens in Catholic or Orthodox churches, which likewise practiced “close communion.” Some Catholics are taking this to another level by refusing to commune politicians who favor abortion.  Some are considering refusing to commune regular laypeople who disagree with the church’s other moral teachings.  Is that a possibility for Lutheran parishes, or does our different understanding of the Lord’s Supper and church discipline preclude that? [Read more...]

Why the Lord’s Supper

Some years ago, I, as a Lutheran, was invited to write about the Lord’s Supper in Tabletalk, a magazine with mostly Reformed readers, which was doing special issue on the sacraments.  I didn’t want to argue, just explain what Holy Communion means and can mean in the life of a Christian.  I offer it to you, whatever your theology, for Maundy Thursday:

As far as I know, I am the only Lutheran who writes regularly for Tabletalk, so please bear with me. Inviting a Lutheran to write about the Lord’s Supper is like asking a grandmother if she has any pictures of the new baby. So much affection for the subject matter can easily outpace other people’s interest. However, the Lord’s Supper is at the heart of a Lutheran’s piety. Calvinists too, as well as other Protestants, are rediscovering their own sacramental heritage, which has become somewhat forgotten. We Lutherans have never lost the Reformation’s emphasis on the sacrament, so perhaps this description of what it is like might prove helpful.

I do not intend here so much to argue for the Lutheran theological position on the sacrament, but rather to describe — in a way that I hope is helpful for non-Lutherans who are also trying to regain an evangelical sense of the sacrament — what it is like to believe in it. I will then make some cultural connections, showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity. [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X