29 March 2010

Cultural or Theological

Sometimes, in the middle of a busy week, one needs to take an intellectually stimulating break - to have one's mind think about some query or quandry that isn't the main focus of work - and so, should any of you wish for that, here I provide a question. Is this me playing Devil's Advocate, or simply being reflective -- I don't know, but here it goes.

Why are so many folks disdainful of individual cups when they have little to no problem with individual hosts?

I would think it is safe to assume that most of the folks on this blog prefer common cup -- highly, highly prefer common cup. I've even seen theological arguments that way - references to the fact that Scripture speaks to the "cup".

Okay- St. Paul also says, "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." Why the disdain for one "individual" method of distribution for one kind but not for the other? Is it really a theological objection, or is it more of a cultural objection - that we end up reacting against the types of of thoughts that drive and push the individual cups?

Behold - there is your semi-escapist-but-still-keep-thinking-theologically break for the day. What think you?


Rev. Paul Beisel said...

As the Cup symbolizes our unity in the blood of Christ, so the Paten, traditionally, is symbolic of the "one Bread." Even when drinking the Common Cup, we each take individual sips. So the bread, though individually given, is taken from one loaf at some point, and is placed on the Paten, which symbolizes that "one Bread."

I think the reason we don't focus on the bread like we do with the cup is this: For large congregations it would be virtually impossible to have everyone take from one loaf of bread. Plus, the fact that it is much easier to have crumbs fall to the floor, etc. It is messy. The Cup is not only possible, but preferrable in these situations.

Father Hollywood said...

This is a great discussion topic!

If you read the Words of Institution carefully (paying attention to the Lord's use of singular and plural when it comes to how the blood is distributed), we see that the Lord Himself established a "common cup" in the Lord's Supper - per the same established use in the Passover.

God Himself set this rubric, and we can only presume He had a good reason to do it. Maybe when it comes to the Verba, the mantra ought to be ("Say *and do* the black" - since the Lord did not put the narrative part of the verba (the rubric) in red).

There is submission in drinking from the shared cup. It is an act of humility that we Americans are not used to. That is reason enough alone to do it. By contrast, the little cups confess an individual faith, as well as the idea of "my choice" rather than "my submission." I think it reflects, and leads to, a consumer ethos in the church.

By contrast, bread has to be separated. Our Lord did not pass around a loaf and tell the disciples to each bite into a common loaf. The bread is broken into individual pieces. Communion wafers simply do this ahead of time to facilitate distribution. There is no attempt to rebel against the Lord's Words out of individualism, a refusal to submit, or fear of germs.

The germ phobia is another issue. The assumption is that Jesus (God in the flesh) was ignorant about microbes until just a couple hundred years ago. And wasn't that nice of us to get Him straight on that? God established an antiseptic substance (wine) to be used as His blood.

There is also the issue of cleansing the holy vessels. Cleaning one metal chalice makes far more sense than cleaning 100 glass or plastic shooters. And in the case of plastic disposables, well, I don't even want to go there, the thought is so horrific (the unthinkable used to happen in my own parish).

This shows the value of tradition. Innovation nearly always opens up a can of worms and creates unintended consequences. Maybe the Lord knew best when He established the single chalice and chose not to give each disciple his own cup. Why can't we just submit to the Lord and to the Church and thank God for what we are receiving rather than demand that we get our own personal cup? I can think of nothing good that has come of Lutherans imitating Protestants. Not one good thing whatsoever.

There is also the issue of what is confessed. Wine in a beautiful vessel is more likely to be seen as sacred blood than wine in a plastic jigger. There is a reason the Temple vessels and appointments and priestly vestments were beautiful and made of precious metals - per the Lord's instructions. Why give the Lord cheap junk to be used in His house instead of things of beauty? What does that confess and convey? It is one thing for a Baptist to use a plastic jigger - something else for a Lutheran to do so. It sends a mixed message: lex orandi and all that.

And at the same time, many of us are "stuck." If I were to even suggest abolition, I would have people refuse to take the Sacrament - which makes me wonder just what they believe about it in the first place.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer said...

What Father Hollywood said! :)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Beisel - (continuing the Devil's advocate theme) If the patten can be symbolic of one bread, why can't the tray be symbolic of the individual cup? After all, it is not a matter of each bringing his own cup - but rather all receive from the common place.

Beane - You write (most aptly) "There is submission in drinking from the shared cup. It is an act of humility that we Americans are not used to." Is then the true problem more of the idea of submission rather than the practical matter of the method of distribution.

Consider a hypothetical parallel. What if there were a common loaf - and people said, "I don't want to eat what you've torn off, it's unsanitary, I don't want to eat the same thing as X, it's icky" -or the like, all things that we might hear if introducing a common loaf. Would the presence of these "concerns" make us as opposed to individual hosts as we can be towards the individual cups?

-- Devil's Advocate off -- I do think the simple matter is that there is a difference in ease of distribution. Individual hosts makes large scale distribution easier. Individual cups make it much harder. But, if these practical considerations are ignored, are the two from a solely theological perspective all that different?

Susan said...

Ideally, I would prefer to see a common loaf. But pastors have explained to me that this would result in a problem of crumbs. Holy crumbs. And then you get into the same problems with clean-up that you have with the individual cups.

And then there's everything Fr Hollywood said.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I think the practical follows the theological. I don't think this is an either/or situation, that it must be either a practical or theological matter. I believe it is both.

It is not practical to wash the individual cups (practice) because of what we believe is in them (doctrine). This is why I think it is a grave error to consult with, say, a Baptist professor recommending liturgical change for the sake of being "missional" (as was done at a district pastor's conference a couple years back) when our Baptist brethren have a different theology of sacraments. Their liturgical practice flows from their theology of worship - and we have significant differences with them on this point. This is why it is folly to advocate for Lutheran doctrine and neo-Evangelical practice. It sends a mixed signal and fails to clearly "teach the people" (as ceremonies are to do per Augsburg Confession 24:3).

Given that we have a past, we should not break with that tradition unless the tradition is ungodly in some way. The method of distribution was not broken when the chalice was replaced by shooters. It was a "solution" without a "problem." Imitation of those who deny the real presence created practical problems for us based on the theological assumptions in the practice of individual cups.

This is also why I have no idea why many Lutherans marched behind the pope in the grand procession to commune in the hand while standing up according to the revolutionary reforms of Vatican II. Our 16th century reformation was far more conservative.

As far as the hypothetical about biting off of a common loaf, it's a non sequitur. Jesus didn't establish this nor implore us to do this - and the custom never appears in our tradition, past or present.

Perhaps Father knows best after all, which is why the Son always submits to Him. I cannot recall even one instance where Jesus ever asserted His own preference over and against His Father. Jesus fulfilled the OT - He did not bend it to His own will. The Father likes things like vestments, bells, incense, gold, beautiful art, etc. But how often do you ever hear this in our worship debates? We usually end up talking about what *we* like or (more likely) what unbelievers (euphemistically called "the unchurched) like, or what will appeal to teenagers. At some point, God lost His vote. That's because submission is off our radar screen.

Our American culture detests submission - which is why pastors must walk a thin line on such issues. We want to remain faithful and call people to repentance, but at the same time, we need to avoid uprooting all the plants in the process of pulling weeds. We want to avoid snuffing out a dimly burning wick.

And I do not believe the issue can be addressed by catechesis. As necessary and salutary that catechesis is, teaching does not bring about *submission* - only repentance can do that. And you cannot catechize anyone into repentance. I believe it is simply untrue that if we teach enough, the people will repudiate the individual cups.

Again, Eric, this is a great topic!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Dear Larry,

You write "As far as the hypothetical about biting off of a common loaf, it's a non sequitur. Jesus didn't establish this nor implore us to do this - and the custom never appears in our tradition, past or present."

Are you sure that it never appears? The East still uses a common loaf in most places - and when Paul addresses Corinthians it does not appear that they have individual hosts yet. When did that practice arise? Does anyone know?

According to this line of discussion on a Roman Catholic (so our traditional roots) the earliest documented used of a wafer was 1050, and even then it was a large one that was broken up and distributed.

So no - this is not a non sequitur but rather a plausible hypothetical question. Let's though, if you wish to avoid the hypothetical, make it historical. What was the basis and theological rational moving from a single loaf or wave to precut, individual wafers? Were some of the same issues at place today in terms of individual cups at play then as well?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I misunderstood your example. I thought you meant the loaf would be put in someone's face and they would bite off of it.

Tearing off a piece of bread and handing it to someone is really no different (in termsof germs and handling) than handing someone a host or placing it on the person's tongue. It still gets touched by the pastor's hands.

So, I don't see what the point of your example is.

Father Hollywood said...

As a postscript, my high school used to use pita bread for Mass. A piece was torn off by the celebrant and handed to the communicant. I see absolutely no difference between this and a wafer. The wafers are simply "pre-torn."

The jiggers introduce multiple vessels that now need cleansed. It is also next to impossible to prevent a hundred small cups to not be spilled.

I just do not see how we can compare individual cups to individual hosts. One is liquid and the other is solid. One requires a vessel and the other doesn't.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Dear Larry,

The wafers are simply "pre-torn." Okay - in individual cups, the specific, individual sips are simply pre-divided out. After all (Devil's Advocate mode on), it's more hygienic this way. Are you only going to be opposed to it because it is a bit more work? Manufacturing batches of tiny wafers is more work -- just for someone else.

(Also, in my example - you and I know that there isn't much difference in terms of germ level between the chalice and the individual cup - in fact, possibly more with individual given the fact that people generally stick their hands over other cups -- doesn't matter what the reality is, if people think it is less sanitary - it doesn't seem as sanitary - the pastor holding the bread and twisting and tearing - his hands are all over it constantly!)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

You're a better advocate for Jesus than you are for the devil. And I think that is a very good thing! :-)

The difference is that wine/blood must be served in a vessel. Multiple cups mean multiple opportunities to spill, multiple opportunities for desecration (spilled blood happens in my church about every other week) - including (sometimes) a deliberate tossing of the reliquiae in the trash (which used to happen in my parish).

I have seen the practice where a person communes and then walks past a large trash can and pitches the plastic cup and the reliquiae into it. All that's missing is a statue of Ronald McDonald and a sign that says: "place trash here."

None of this is an issue when pre-cut bread is used vs. cutting it right before communion from a common loaf. It isn't analogous at all. Liquids simply have to be managed differently than solids.

Churches that do not confess the real presence can throw the vessels and the "reliquiae" (in reality they have no reliquiae) in the garbage like we pitch a McDonald's box and some uneaten fries. But Lutherans simply ought to be repulsed by such a thought.

Also, the churches that do not confess the real presence often use non-alcoholic grape juice - which if served in a common cup would indeed spread germs. Hence the need for indy-shooters. Plus, it lets teetotalers experience "bellying up to the bar" and "knocking one back" without guilt. ;-)

There is simply a fundamental theological difference between churches that confess the real presence and those that do not - and that theology informs (or should inform) our practice. But in most churches, "individual preference" trumps theology.

Again, the bottom line is not merely to get the liquid in the body by any means necessary (if that were the case, we could give communion through an IV or by nasal swab), but the point is to "do this," to eat and drink. The mode of drinking from a common, ritually blessed chalice was established prophetically thousands of years ago, and confirmed by our Lord's use and submitted to by the church for centuries.

The recent introduction of jiggers has not made the sacrament more sanitary, but it has introduced unforeseen circumstances - such as a flippancy toward desecration and the difficulty in reverently handling the reliquiae.

Of course, none of this is an issue if one does not believe in the Real Presence.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


(Devil's Advocate Mode on) So basically what you are saying is that it is the cultural trappings associated with the individual cups that are problematic. If those cultural trappings are removed - if there is no flippant disposal of the cups, if there is no irreverent referral to them as "jiggers" or the like, then there would be nothing theologically detrimental to them? Or do you say that the chalice fundamentally confesses the real presence specifically in a way that individual cups do not (whereas a common loaf would *not* better confess the real presence in a way that individual wafers do not)?

(Devil's Advocate continued) I have seen that the majority of drips - few that they are - come more often from the chalice. In fact, we have purificators designed precisely to clean up after these -- does this then mean that perhaps it would be better to cease using the chalice. . . provided the experience of the local dictates that the chalice is more prone to spillage.

(shudder . . . but, to be prepared to answer a question, one must learn to anticipate the questions)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear DA:

Desecration has nothing to do with culture.

The indies statistically increase the odds of desecration. One cup in my hand is easier to manage than a hundred strewn across trays and balanced on the rail where children come to kneel and over which bracelets and swinging arms are dangling.

Jesus established the single cup (which ought to carry far more weight in the discussion than it does). It prevents desecration before drinking, provides for better control of the reliquiae afterwards, and by its dignity confesses that there is something other than symbolic Kool-Aid inside.

The only reasons to change are personal and self-centered (incurvatus se). There is no theological advantage or clearer confession to be gained by changing the Lord's establishment and the church's centuries of traditional submission. To the contrary, a strong argument can be made on the other side, as I think I've done - hopefully even to the devil's admission.

Rev Rydecki said...

Fr. Hollywood,

"Jesus established the single cup (which ought to carry far more weight in the discussion than it does)."

Here's the thing, aside from all the solid reasoning for using the common cup: If you assert that Jesus established the single cup, then mustn't you also assert that it is sinful to use the "indies," and that the Sacrament is nullified by their use?

I think it would be better to say that Jesus established the eating and drinking of the body given and the blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Bread and wine are the vehicles (to poke Zwingli in the eye) for his body and blood. One can make cogent arguments for what kind of vehicles are appropriate for the vehicles, but to say that Christ establishes such things is saying too much. Or did I misunderstand?

As for the single loaf, I don't know how one can say that the wafers produced in mass quantity by the wafer suppliers were ever "pre-cut." Weren't they all baked as individual wafers?

Good discussion topic.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Quoth the DA:

"Ah, so - as Jesus did, so should we. Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave. . . so, does that not imply that we ought to use one loaf as Christ did? And no, not in a Zwinglian fracture way (guess I'm not a total DA. . . I can't go zwinglian) - but in a provide a bit for many way like the EO do."

+ + + + +

No longer playing DA, Rev. Rydecki does make a good point that I tend to agree with -- I think if we say that IC are wrong, we push too far. Foolish and less reverence, and hence to not be preferred might be better language.

Also, you did bring up something - we collect the individual cups after their use (we have no rail. . . prairie style church circa 1908) and as such there isn't nearly the spillage that comes up. If in the discussion you highlight the worst case scenario of irreverance, people can write you off because you aren't describing what "they" are doing.

Assume a reverent usage of Individual cups. Why is it less preferable than a reverent usage of individual wafers?

:sigh: There are times I miss gechsmokelkeit.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Rev. Rydecki:

You write:

"then mustn't you also assert that it is sinful to use the "indies," and that the Sacrament is nullified by their use?"

Not at all. That would be a receptionist argument, as the receptionist argues that if the wine is spilled (and not drunk) it is only wine and not the blood - hence it is impossible to desecrate the sacrament. My argument is that when a jigger is tipped over, the blood of Christ is desecrated. And it is even worse when the reliquiae ends up in the garbage or the sewer.

The disposable jiggers virtually assure the Lord's blood will be desecrated. Devil's Advocates may make the argument that this need not be, but the reality is that this is what happens. We all know it. We've all seen it. It is inexcusable.

I have never heard anyone anywhere argue that jiggers "nullify" the sacrament. Rather, in defying our Lord's rubrics we expose the sacrament to desecration. I argue that Jesus knew what He was doing, and we ought to follow His lead. Our Lord likewise did not mandate the use of the Krazy Straw, and I argue that such use would indeed be "krazy" and foolish - a "solution" in search of a "problem." Our Lord did not mandate us to hold our noses and say "down the hatch" when we commune either. I think there is a good reason He didn't. We probably shouldn't do that, but stick with tradition instead.

Life goes so much easier when we just listen to God's Word and do it - rather than thinking we can do it better.

You write:

"Bread and wine are the vehicles (to poke Zwingli in the eye) for his body and blood."

Our Lord never says "vehicles." He says "is." I think this is more of a nod to Zwingli than a poke in the eye. Zwinglians often accuse Lutherans of this sort of thing, like the Reformed explanation of the Lutheran Lord's Supper as analogous to a sponge containing water. They like to think we believe in consubstantiation, and get really mad when we say we don't.

Rather, the bread *is* His body and the blood *is* His wine. The cup, rather, is the vehicle, the conveyance. And the Lord mentions the conveyance in the verba themselves - which suggests it's kind of important. But to put it in perspective, to argue that if we intinct the body into the blood and give it to a dying person that we are "invalidating" the sacrament by not using a cup is an innovative doctrine that no-one holds.

This is the value of tradition. Tradition helps us maintain our faithfulness and our humility.

The communion wafers are produced by rolling dough into long tubes. Baking them individually might be possible if the monasteries and convents were equipped with thousands of Easy Bake Ovens. Rather, they are sliced from the whole. They were at one time connected into a whole loaf. Otherwise, they would each be a separate loaf.

Again, the problem with the cups is the cups - not in the wine itself. The cups (which really aren't cups as much as they are glasses) are a disastrous idea that serve no good - unless fostering a sense of commercialism and individual choice (even talk of "rights" which I've often heard), as well as exposing our blessed Lord to desecration and the indignity of worship trading beauty for disposable kitsch and making communion resemble a Tijuana slopshoot - are all somehow desirable.

I just do not see the plus side at all. What was gained when this innovation came into our use?

We're stuck with them now, and I argue that the devil is the one who originally advocated their use. "Did God *really* say: "Take this (singular) all of you (plural) and drink from it (singular)"?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

Whether there is a rail or not, managing 100 cups is 100 times as risky as managing one cup. You can carry a chalice with a purificator wrapped around it to keep the Lord's blood from spilling, but this is impossible to do with a shooter.

And even if we were to use a krazy straw in a very reverent manner, I argue that, by definition, deviating from our Lord and tradition is to be irreverent by definition.

To say "assume a reverent use of individual cups" is a nonsensical assumption. It's like saying "assume a reverent use of krazy straws" or "assume a reverent use of saying 'down the hatch.'"

What is the benefit of a hundred jiggers vs. one chalice? Cui bono? I'm not saying it would be wise to change it now that the toothpaste is out of the tube, but let's not reverse engineer our theology to define that which is inferior as equal, or even superior.

Is there even one benefit, theological or practical, to deviating from our Lord's institution by changing singulars to plurals and exchanging a single chalice for a multiplicity of shooters?

I always cringe when I chant: "He took *the cup* [singular] after supper... He gave *it* [singular] to them [plural] saying: 'Drink of *it* [singular] all of you [plural], *this cup* [singular] is.... This do as often as you [plural] drink *it* [singular]...'" all the while I'm looking at dozens of shooters in a tray. The words do not match the reality.

I put up with this inconsistency and do my best to protect the Lord from desecration out of pastoral sensitivity to those who now see this as normal, but I will never accept this as a good thing. It was a horrific mistake for our forbears to imitate Protestants when they gave us this shot-glass trainwreck.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Quoth the DA:

"Ah, Rev. Beane - thou hast dodged and evaded with the skill of one of your New Orleans Politicians, but I shall call you on it. You refer to our Lord's actions a rubrics, yet only as regards the chalice. Again - what of the bread. Does not our Lord say, 'Take, eat, this (singular) is My Body'? Are we not fairly certain that He did not have little individual slices of a bread-tube? If the basis is upon the words of Christ and how He did things, why no furor over the European invention of wafers? Or is it just that you support commericalism as long as it benefits monasteries and not the plastic industry?"


Father Hollywood said...

Dear DA:

Try as you might, I do not see our Blessed Lord and the Twelve taking a bite out of a common sandwich being passed around Oklahoma-style. The use of wafers is a non-issue.

After the bread was consecrated, they each had their own piece of bread (body) before them. They ate their own individual bread (body). But by contrast, they shared the single cup of the Lord's blood - by the Lord's own words! The thinness of the individual piece of bread that they ate and how it was made is as relevant as to how much water constitutes a valid baptism. We know for absolute certain that the Lord invited them to share a single cup holding His blood, from the Passover liturgy - and none of them demanded his right to his own cup, refused to drink after someone of another race, or complained about Simon the Zealot's backwash or Peter's sniffles.

But then again, I forgot, we know so much more about germs than Jesus did (I have actually heard that argument!).

"This" can indeed refer to a paten of wafers. And indeed, the disciples did in fact take only one piece of bread each. But you cannot consecrate using the words "this cup is" and actually mean "these cups are" and be consistent. You take your own sip, to be sure, but from a mutual cup. By the time the body of Christ is put on your tongue or hand, it is already an individual piece of bread.

Our ancestors understood this because they did not demand to do things their own way. For crying out loud, there was actually an old Lutheran Witness article (I think it was 1912) addressing the use of straws for communion. Why am I not surprised this would happen in the LCMS in the USA?

It just works so much better when we obey Jesus. Our sinful nature wants to complicate everything. And Lutherans are always eager to pretend that centuries of precedent don't exist. I have no compunction in saying that the jiggers are a terrible thing, but I put up with them out of pastoral concern. Personally, I don't see the point in trying to convince myself the jiggers are in any way God-pleasing or good. They are, at best, a manifestation of selfishness - which is ironic considering what the Lord has done for us in shedding His blood for us. He gives us His blood, and some spurn it unless it can be served in a cheap plastic shot glass to their liking. How profoundly sad.

It's no wonder we have had clergymen leave our communion thinking we have become a parody of the Church. We just do not like to submit. This is just one more symptom. We say "sola scriptura" and then turn around and say "this cup" is really "these cups" when it is convenient or self-serving. Now *that's* downright Huey P. Long churchmanship.

Besides, a Louisiana politician would be more likely to advocate for many jiggers and then seek a kickback from the jigger company. That's far more lucrative than a chalice. :-)

Fr. Timothy D. May said...

I have not read the discussion too closely for lack of time but find it interesting that, from the beginning, it is an either/or situation between "culture" and "theology" and much of the discussion is focused on practical considerations/preferences.

When personal preferences are espoused it is probably not surprising that theology and Tradition are secondary. Innovative practices such as the use of plastic cups are while the Tradition is characterized as cultural, even when it does not conflict with Scripture. This says more about us and how we do theology (ie, find what is popular or works best and find a rationale for it later).

A quick thought on Tradition. Fr. Beane seems to be referring to Tradition that goes with things like Church and Scripture. This may seem like stating the obvious but if I talk about Tradition, in my geographical context, people usually think German or German-American. If there is focus on theology and practice then tradition means the Reformation (maybe mixed in with a little Enlightenment) or 19th c. or 20th c. Reformation theology (with the related American-European theological debates). However, Tradition is not limited to the last 500 years (or for those who believe the 1960s is the height of civilization, the last 50 years). Tradition is there too in the Middle Ages, in the Early Church, at the time of the Apostles and at the feet of Jesus.

We cannot easily brush aside this fact in order to defend recent innovations whose greatest defense is that they are more practical, or that they are not too theological. If so then we certainly place culture above theology and all our practices become suspect.

Sir Cuthbert said...

The following is not intended as an argument of any kind, but is an actual question which the present discussion brought to my mind, and to which I do not know the answer:

What of the wine contained in the pitcher-shaped vessel (I don't know the correct name for it)? Does this have any bearing on the present discussion? If so, why? If not, why not? Is this wine included in the Words of Institution, or are the Words pronounced again when the chalice is refilled?

Also, what about the use of two chalices? My congregation uses two in rotation, so that the distribution may be continuous. Does this have anything to do with the present discussion?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Sir:

Doesn't that sound generic? ;-)

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't consecrate the wine in the flagon. If I run low in the chalice, I drink the remainder, cleanse it with a purificator, fill the chalice up with (unconsecrated) wine from the flagon, and consecrate it. It only takes a minute to run through the process. It happens sometimes.

As far as a second chalice, I think common sense dictates that this is not the same thing.

When communing a large group, several chalices may well be in order for the sake of order. Communing a large crowd with shooters would actually add a heckuva lot of time and be counterproductive. I think the key word is "in order to..." If the use of multiple cups is a way to individualize the communion (a contradiction in terms in and of itself) that is contrary to our Lord's intent that we commune with Him and with our brethren ("all of you") by way of "this cup" (singular). If the intent is to give everyone a way out of that communion and community by way of an individual cup, it's pretty clear that this is something different entirely.

And again, two or even three chalices is a safer method of containment (not to mention more dignified and a better confession of the contents) than three or five hundred individual glasses going hither and yon and subject to spilling.

I know advocates of the jiggers will make the case that two or three chalices for a large number of communicants is the same thing, in principle as hundreds of shot glasses - but it simply isn't.

I think it is safe to say that Jesus does not want us to drink alone - with all due respect to George Thoroughgood.

Rev Rydecki said...

Fr. Hollywood,

"Our Lord never says "vehicles." He says "is." I think this is more of a nod to Zwingli than a poke in the eye."

Sorry if you missed my reference to Zwingli's "The Holy Spirit doesn't need a 'vehiculum'" statement made in reference to the Means of Grace. I was referring to the Means of Grace, and essentially, the Gospel in Word, Word and water, Word and bread and wine, are his chosen "vehicula" for bringing us forgiveness, life and salvation.

The cup itself is not a Means of Grace. Its contents are. Paul is clearly using metonymy in 1 Corinthians.

There's a difference between saying Jesus "used" a single cup and he "established the use" of a single cup. The former is Scriptural truth. The latter goes beyond Scripture. If you insist that Jesus "established" the rubric of using a single cup, then you cannot escape the conclusion that to deviate from something Jesus established is sinful, and therefore all who fail to do what Jesus established are sinning.

I ask this humbly. Do please show some charity in how you speak of the use of individual cups, as if they were inherently irreverent. Some congregations, like my own, have never known anything different. I would prefer to change that at some point, but I can assure you that most of my members show great reverence for Christ when they commune, even as they kneel and drink from plastic cups. You don't really want to say that any Christian who communes with an individual cup is showing irreverence for Christ, do you?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Pr. Rydecki:

I'm sorry for the formality, but I don't know your first name (though your last name kind of rings a bell).

As a layman, I belonged to such a congregation where there wasn't even the option to take from the chalice. I am in no way pointing fingers at the people. I hold previous *pastors* accountable. There was a time when no Lutheran congregation used jiggers. At some point, some pastor somewhere put away the chalice - perhaps with "good intentions" of hygiene or perhaps just to look like the local Methodist church. Whatever the reason, it was unwise to buck tradition.

Now we are paying the price.

It is the *practice* that is the problem - not the people who are stuck with it or who know no other way to commune - nor even the pastors who are stuck (myself included). But I do think we should recognize the very serious consequences (the blood of Christ has been tossed in the trash for crying out loud!) and not look to Scripture to bail us out in deviating from the Dominical and traditional practice that was done for centuries.

Jesus said what He said. He did what He did. I don't believe it was a random thing, and that all options are equal. I think it is unwise to push the envelope by seeking freedom from the Lord's practice - even if He didn't say: "Thou shalt not use shot-glasses." Consequently, I think we would be wise to use a chalice like Jesus, like thousands of years of OT believers, and like centuries of Christians. If the motivation is to be a rebel and to satisfy the wants of the flesh and by not caring if the Lord's blood is profaned, or if it is a fig leaf for unbelief - then use of the jiggers can indeed be a sinful thing. But I think (at least I earnestly hope) this would be an extremely rare thing.

What was the benefit in changing it? Did the practice of communion become more reverent or less (all other things being equal) when the plastic shooter replaced the metal chalice? Which way protects the sacred from profanation? I don't think this is all that complicated an issue. I think the chalice is clearly the better way, though wise pastoral practice typically prevents going back to the exclusively traditional method.

If the only way a person can commune is to take it in a jigger, than so be it. But it is still a lousy alternative and reflects some pastor's boneheaded move in the past. We would not serve a dinner guest wine with a meal in the same way that many of our churches serve the Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

My own congregation did not have jiggers until the 1980s during the AIDS scare. It seems that the pastor at that time introduced them. The lay people weren't so keen on them. I think it was an unwise move. Number one, you don't get AIDS from drinking the blood of Christ from a chalice. Number two, it led to the unintended consequence of (years later) the blood of Christ ending up in the garbage.

Today, there are people who have never communed from the chalice, always having the shot glass as an option, which became a preference and a habit. So we're stuck with something that should never have been. And there is no ecclesiastical or even practical benefit. The best we can do is try to play the adiaphora card and just overlook the desecration that these little cups have enabled over the decades.

I hope this clarifies what my position is. Of course, there are many points of view on it, and I don't claim it to be the only way of looking at it by any stretch.

But this is a forum for discussion, and I find the use of the shooters to be an unfortunate and abominable innovative practice, alien to Lutheran theology, that many congregations are simply stuck with - and I would be lying if I said otherwise.

I think it would be a great thing to see more people move to the chalice and over time minimize the use of the shooters. That is the best that can be hoped for, in my opinion.

Rev Rydecki said...


(It's Paul, by the way. Maybe I need to update my profile. And yes, we've had some fun Latin/German discussions in the past)

When you put it that way, I say, "Amen!"

(I'm not on board with the "Christ's blood in the trash" thing, but I'll save a discussion of the reliquiae for another time. "Extra usum" and all that.)

As I see it, the form of celebrating the Lord's Supper is one of those real "adiaphora," and I don't mean that in the sense that, "it doesn't matter either way," or "to each his own."

I mean that, in and of itself, the vessel(s) for receiving the wine or the form of the bread is not established by God.

But our choices rarely exist "in and of themselves." They occur in a given context or situation. So if something is truly a matter of adiaphora, that is not where the discussion should end, but where it should begin: what motivation would there be for doing one thing or the other? What impact will one or the other have on my brother? What does this or that teach?

You've made some excellent points along those lines. Faithful pastors and parishes must wrestle with these things and, in the peace of forgiveness, admit where bad reasoning/motivation/catechesis has influenced our practice. For some, that may mean repenting of specific sins. For others, it may not be a matter of confessing, "we've been sinning by doing it this way." It may simply be a realization that, as Christ's holy people, "we can do better!"

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


And I would say that at some point in history, the custom arose of using individual wafers instead of a single loaf. Hundreds of years after the fact, we don't view this change or adaptation to be irreverent. I still say that this too was an individualizing move.

Also, as a note, I saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum in their Churchware Exhibit one of the first "individual" communion sets -- it was from a British Congregationalist Church around 1900 -- and it was a set of small, individual chalices -- actually lovely chalices, just rather small.

As Rev. May pointed out - I did set up a contrast between theology and culture here - and one can definately push that too far, but there is a cultural context involved. I think we end up using shortcuts. In our own heads, how many of us quickly equate individual=irreverent and common with reverent. In terms of actual practice, that's not necessarily the case. There are places that use the chalice that are sloppy and irreverent, there are places that use the individual that take great pains to show reverence (even though it takes more work when individual cups are involved).

+ + + +

To Sir:

At my congregation I have a flagon, a chalice, and the inherited individual cups. I consecrate everything at the same time - and I designated this for the flagon by having it's lid open, indicating it during the words "took the cup" and by making the sign of the cross over it at "this cup is the New Testament in My Blood".

Even as I brought this whole thing up - the main focus is the elements - not the vessels. The vessels are tools - it is good to use better tools, but just tools.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

"British Congregationalist Church around 1900."

Two points:

1) 1900 is nineteen centuries after Jesus took one cup and said "drink ye all of it."

2) Congregationalists don't believe in the real presence.

So, why are Lutherans so eager to copy the practices of those whose theologies we condemn? That would be an interesting discussion...

Rev. Paul Beisel said...


If you want to use one loaf, then by a few of those large hosts that break off into 24 or so pieces. Then you can have your cake and eat it too.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Why are we so eager? I don't know why we should be. But I don't think the change is happening now. Do any of you know of a congregation that has moved *to* individual cups in the past decade away from the chalice?

In most places individual cups are something of a well established local custom - decades old at the least (it seems like there was a big push for them in the 50s and 60s - but that is just my anecdotal observation - not actual research -- anyone know when individual cups became popular in the LCMS).

Of course, we do latch on to ideas from other places. . . blue paraments in Advent (I'm guessing some folks here might even like that)and the 3-year lectionary are both less than 50 years old, by in large, and not originating in Lutheran Circles. Lots can be asked on why.

I'm still just incredibly curious about the history of the Communion wafer - that's a development. And I wonder if 600 years from now (if our Lord tarries that long) if some guy is going to ask about the history of the most common and typical of practices, the individual cup.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

I think you've pointed out something that touches on the problem. We Americans have a terribly short-sided view of history. If our local congregation has been doing something for a couple decades, we can say: "We've always done it that way." Such a thing has become "our tradition."

But this "we" is not the *catholic* "we," but a much more narrow "we." Americans often even narrow the "we" until it really means "me." This individualism is antithetical to the idea of ekklesia ("assembly"). Americans like the idea of a "church of one" - but that is an oxymoron on its face.

The other thing is the American notion of time. If a building was built a century ago, we consider that to be "old."

A relative of mine once spoke of the traditionalism and antiquity of his congregation by pointing out that they are using hymns (actually praise songs) that stretch back into the 1970s. I don't have to tell you that this was a Protestant church. And fortunately, it was not a church with the name "Lutheran" on it.

This disconnect from antiquity, this American love of innovation and "improvement" is also antithetical to our faith. The connection, the "paradidomi" ("handing over" also translated "betrayed" in the Words of Institution), is the meaning of "tradition" and it is the lived out theology of our confession of the church as "apostolic."

The way we 21st century American Lutherans see ourselves and our life as a church often takes away from our confession that we are both "catholic" and "apostolic."

Again, submission is a bad word in American culture. And what a great shame that is, especially as submission is all over the life, ministry, passion, and death of God the Son. We bring most of our problems upon ourselves by our routine refusal to submit to the Father, to the fathers, to Christ, to the Word, to the Church, and to a catholic and apostolic understanding of the faith.

As far as the three-year series goes, the argument is that it provides more Scripture to be preached on. It is also not something the LCMS did on its own. I prefer the historic lectionary, but at least the 3-year series can have a good argument made for it. Unlike the jiggers, there is some arguable benefit. It doesn't result in desecration of the holy things. It doesn't lead to a consumer and individualistic mentality of Word and sacrament. It doesn't stand in tension with the Lord's own words in the verba.

Ditto for the blue paraments. At least this is not a uniquely modern American Lutheran practice. The argument is that it differentiates Advent and it has its roots in the Sarum Rite. If a congregation were to unilaterally decide to use orange paraments for Pentecost, I think it would be an ill-advised move - though one could argue that it is simply an adiaphoron, and if it makes people feel good, what the heck.

But the jiggers are demonstrably un-catholic. There is no other branch of the Church that confesses the real presence that uses them - and with good reason. Shot-glasses are nowhere to be found in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or Anglicanism - not in the early church, the medieval church, the reformation church, nor even the church of the LCMS's founding. They are also unheard of in many places around the Lutheran world.

If we look at this through the lenses of catholicity and apostolicity, across space and time, we are a tiny minority. We are deviant. And there is simply no benefit other than a false sense of security regarding germs.

"We" do it and consider it "normal." But it isn't. It's a strange, innovative, and abnormal practice to which we grant the sheen of "tradition" because "we" have been doing it "for a long time."

Chad Myers said...

A few quick points here:
- Throughout history and in most cultures (including Semitic and Eastern), drinking from a common cup symbolizes unity and friendship. Kings would pledge allegiances and drink from the same cup during the celebration feast afterwards, etc. They also would sometimes tear a piece from the same loaf of bread, but you always hear about the cup and the wine as a stronger symbol of the unity.

- One important aspect to consider here (which has been touched on in various ways) is the potential for desecration. Breaking off pieces of a loaf of bread (or even one of the big wafers) causes crumbs which can be problematic. Individual cups also cause wastage (my childhood Lutheran church used the individual cups and there was always a little left over in each cup because they have squared bottoms). A goblet or cup with a bowl-shaped bottom made of precious metal does not retain or absorb any of the Blood and so spillage and wastage is not particularly a concern.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Paul B,

It's not that I want to - I'm actually quite content with using communion wafers. In fact, given the way in which the reform used the fracture to deny Christ's presence, in the West I would say it is better to have individual wafers. (In fact, the crack of a wafer sends chills up my spine!)

I think what ends up driving practice often is "what best can avoid abuse." That can be fine - but it can be pushed too far. The days were not long ago when the chalice was denied to the laity, in part because of the fear of spills and drips. The fear of bad practice doesn't necessarily establish good practice.

In fact, I'd argue historically that most heresy arises out of a fear of bad theology. Marcion tries to destroy legalism and becomes a heretic. Or consider any of the Trinitarian or Christological heresies - overreactions against a falsehood leading to another.

+ + + + + + + +


I think you may drive to the heart of what I see as the issue with individual cups (and what separates them from the wafers). I don't see as much of an issue with reverence or care -- things can be done reverently.

But why? And I think the answer simply becomes, "Because that is what people wanted" for whatever reason it was wanted. And that I think, is much more problematic.

It's not that we don't submit - it's we don't submit to the right places. In introducing individual cups we have submitted (hypotasso) - but to popular culture, or a dynamic and powerful figure in the local congregation with a creatively placed stick. Americans are followers who simply follow the crowd instead of following wisdom.

I don't think communion wafers came about because of popular demand, or popular fears. Rather, it was simply a fine practice that made things easier without damaging reverence. I think that might be the biggest difference.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...


I think that most of us are just trying to lead our congregations to a better, more biblical practice, or at least toward a practice that more faithfully reflects the Bible and Church history. What I find interesting is that there were probably no theological studies done, no Bible studies when individual cups came into churches. No one said, "Hey, let's study the Biblical image of the Cup of the Lord." It just changed. Did anyone think to ask the pastor? Maybe they did--and maybe he said, "Don't worry about it--sounds good to me!" Great way to start a practice, don'tcha think?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Paul B,

Or a slightly different tact would be why did so many pastors then say, "okay." I'm guessing part of it, at least in the LCMS is that in the 40s-60s those who were more high church (and thus likely to be opposed to a liturgical innovation) were on the liberal side and perhaps left. . . . I think that might play in a bit - but I don't know.

When I've asked people around here they don't really know the history of change (even though we pay fantastic attention to history - one of our members got an award from the Historical Institute for our 100th anniversary book). I can point to the pictures and say, "See, back then, you had a Crucifix, then by here you don't. Anyone know what happened" and I'll get nothing.

This would be very interesting to research - but I fear it wouldn't have been documented very well, and the research would be so hard to do.

And I don't mean to insinuate that anyone isn't trying to do what is best for his congregation -- but this is what we must remember. Even the most whacked out pastor in Christendom is doing what he thinks is best for his congregation. The question ends up being, "Why, why would this be for the best."

Rev Rydecki said...

In the way of anecdote:

I remember when IC's were first introduced in the large church I grew up in in Michigan. It was the mid-80's, and the IC's were then the "cool new thing to do" in my synod. I'm sure the practice was around before that, but the "Hey, it's the 80's!" mentality seems to have influenced the trying of new things by more congregations. After all "we're not Catholic, so we're free from the drag of traditions. Whatever works!"

I was in catechism class when my congregation started offering the alternative IC's in one of the two Sunday services. Of course, it bothered a number of people (but only twice a month, since Communion was only twice a month), so it always had to be announced in the calendar which service would be IC and which service would be CC. That way, one could choose one's service based on one's preference.

Doesn't this sound a lot like the churches that offer the "alternative" contemporary service?

Cecil The Sea Sick Sea Serpent said...

Does CPH sell individual communion cups? even plastic ones? Check out the CTCR statement http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2616