Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On the adoration of the Sacrament

Lutherans often have trouble with the idea that there is to be any adoration connected with the Sacrament of the Altar. The general idea of adoration (adoratio) is the equivalent of a Greek theological term (latreia) designating an act of worship due to God alone. This worship is distinguished from dulia meaning a veneration of creatures.

These words sound a little bit foreign to modern English users because we do not ordinarily consider worship to be a part of modern life. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that worship is due to God alone (Mt. 4:10, John 9:38) and that early Christian martyrs were killed because they did not worship the emperor.

The Oxford Dictionary notes that "God is to be worshipped 'in spirit and in truth' but this injunction is not normally understood to exclude bodily gestures of adoration, such as prostrations or the utterance of spoken prayers. In Roman Catholic theology the Eucharistic sacrifice is often regarded as the principal act of adoration. The adoration paid to the Blessed Sacrament depends on the doctrine of the Real Presence."

Today's devotional writing in Treasury of Daily Prayer contains words of Georg of Anhalt on the subject. Anhalt writes that it is necessary to teach the people that "the true worship and honor of Christ and of His Holy Sacrament does not consist in external gestures or services alone."

Anhalt writes that "the Word is most important, through the power of which, from the institution of the Lord, the true body and blood of Christ are there. The Word teaches us what kind of treasure we have there, what we should use it for, and why Christ is there, so that true invocation and spiritual worship is enkindled in us."

Anhalt advises his reader not to limit true worship and adoration to externals. "On the contrary, since these divine, almighty, true words are believed, all of this follows of itself, and not only in external gestures but also both externally and, first and foremost, in the heart,spirit, and truth. On account of this, such adoration of Christ is not thereby cancelled, but much rather, confirmed. For where the Word is rightly seen, considered, and believed, the adoration of the Sacrament will happen of itself."

For Lutherans the worship and adoration in the Sacrament comes from the teaching of the Real Presence. Anhalt again: "For whoever believes that Christ's body and blood are there (as there is plenty of evidence to so believe), he cannot, to be sure, deny his reverence to the body and blood of Christ without sin. For I must onfess that Christ is there when His body and blood are there. His words do not lie to me, and He is not separate from His body and blood."

[sources: F.L. Cross, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford, 3d ed. 1997; Scot A. Kinnaman, ed., Treasury of Daily Prayer, St. Louis, 2008]

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