- Written by Tom Miles Tom Miles
- Created: July 27 2010 July 27 2010
The communion liturgy is called the Anaphora, or the Eucharistic (thanksgiving) prayer. Through it, the congregation offers thanks and praise to God and asks God to prepare their hearts to receive the holy meal.
The Preface, the first part of this liturgy, begins with a dialog between the officiant and congregation called the Sursum Corda (Latin, “lift up your hearts”). The congregation replies to the officiant’s greeting, “The Lord be with you,” with, “And also with you.” The officiant exhorts the people to “Lift up your hearts,” to turn thoughts and minds to holy things, giving themselves over to God. The people affirm that they have done so, saying, “We lift them to the Lord.” With the words, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and the response, “It is right to give Him thanks and praise,” the congregation follows the example of Jesus at the Last Supper, who gave thanks after breaking the bread and taking the wine.
The Sursum Corda is followed by the Proper Preface, which begins with a response to the Great Thanksgiving, “It is truly good, right and salutary …” “Proper” comes from the Latin propium, “to own.” This portion of the Preface is “owned” by a particular day: the words vary according to the day or season. Every version acknowledges the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and calls the congregation to join Christians and the “choirs of angels” in a great hymn of praise, the Sanctus. Sanctus is the a Latin word for “holy.” The text of this ancient hymn comes from Isaiah 6:3—”Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.”—and Matthew 21:9, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem—”Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
The Preface is followed by the Anamnesis. The Greek root from which English gets “amnesia” is prefixed with “ana”: anamnesis means “do not forget.” This part of the liturgy is meant to remind the congregation of the source and reason for communion. The Anamnesis can include an epiclesis (“invocation”), in which the officiant calls upon the Holy Spirit to bless the people through the meal, and a doxology (“word of glory”), which Lutherans include by way of the Lord’s Prayer: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours, now and forever.”
All traditions include the Verba, or Words, of Institution, the words and actions by which Jesus instituted the sacrament, as recorded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:24–25. Verse 26 is sometimes included, and is called the Memorial Acclamation: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
The Pax Domini (“peace of the Lord”)—“The peace of the Lord be with you always”—is offered as a blessing. The traditional response of the congregation, receiving this blessing as though it comes from the mouth of God, would be “Amen”—“May it be so.” The blue hymnal (Lutheran Worship) combined the Pax Domini with the sharing of the peace, which would otherwise be offered earlier in the service. Therefore, many Lutheran congregations are now used to responding to this blessing with “And also with you,” whether or not the extended greeting happens at this point in the service.
The last part of the preparatory communion liturgy is called the Oblation, or “Offering.” The lay ministers and pastors have the honor of offering the body and blood of Jesus with statements beginning, “Take, eat,” and, “Take, drink.”
The Lutheran worship liturgy is rooted in scripture and tradition. Every Sunday, a common set of words and practices unify Saint John’s with Christian churches around the world, with Jesus and the disciples and even with the angels and archangels in heaven, all lauding and magnifying one great God.