quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

Today the Lutherans commemorate the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, one of the most catholic of all the Lutheran Confessions. Below is an excerpt:

"Inasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the sacrament, one common Mass is observed among us on every holy day, and on other days, if any desire the sacrament, it is also administered to those who ask for it. Nor is this custom new in the church . . . Chrysostom says that the priest stands daily at the altar, inviting some to Communion and keeping others away. And it appears from the ancient canons that some one person or other celebrated Mass and the rest of the presbyters and deacons received the body of the Lord from him, for the words of the Nicene canon read, 'In order, after the presbyters, let the deacons receive Holy Communion from the bishop or from a presbyter.'"
(translation of the Latin, Tappert, et al, p. 60)


Rev. Shane R. Cota, SSP said...

Fr. May,

I am always impressed by the truly evangelical and catholic nature of the early Lutherans. It is a tragedy that Lutheranism has not followed this course. Throughout the last few centuries, through to today, we often think Lutheranism means being as "uncatholic" as you can be. What a tragic shame! May the Lord bring Lutherans to true evangelical and catholic renewal!

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Fr. Cota,

Thank you for these thoughts.

Two very general responses I have are (my ametuer historian nature coming out).

1) Lutheranism is often viewed and understood by Lutherans through post-Reformation eyes, ie, that which is post-Reformation is, in all cases, better than that which came before. This is exacerbated by viewing the Reformation via the influences of the Enlightenment, Rationalism and Pietism. This is not all bad. However, the idea of continuity is diminished or lost in favor of rupture and discontinuity and that which is "catholic" in time and space is also diminished or lost. This may explain why Lutheran catholicity is diminished and/or lost in favor of purely "evangelical" concerns (as if they have to be antithetical.) This may also explain our unease with early church and medieval studies in favor of Reformation and contemporary studies).

2) Another thought is something I have been thinking about for some time. Although I am not Roman Catholic I very much observe a prevailing zeitgeist of "anti-Catholicism." This is not anything new, especially in our country. However, I do believe this attitude characterizes much including all that is positively Catholic making it very difficult for reasonable understanding and the passing on of the faith once delivered to the saints. I wonder if this "anti-Catholic" sentiment could in itself be classified a religion. Regardless, this aura makes it quite difficult for true renewal to take place. So much time is spent characterizing that one wonders if there is anything left in common.

Whether or not I am correct in my assessments, and apart from all the obstacles, we ought to be about, as you say, "true evangelical and catholic renewal."