Monday, March 5, 2018

Mark's thoughts: A brief explanation of the Divine Service - part 2

The Divine Service – Service of the Sacrament

The Divine Service reaches its highpoint in the Service of the Sacrament.  We join the heavenly host in giving thanks and glory to God as Jesus Christ comes to us in His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar to give us the forgiveness of sins and strengthen us in the faith.


2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

1 Corinthians 11:23-25 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

The Preface is made up of three exchanges between the pastor and congregation. Just as when it occurs before the Collect and Scripture readings, the Salutation introduces a new part of the service and renews the attention of the congregation as the Divine Service moves forward.  The congregation once again recognizes the pastor as the called servant in their midst and indicates that he should proceed with administering the Lord’s Supper as Christ’s authorized representative.  The statement, “The Lord be with you” is once again a blessing and proclamation of the Lord’s gracious presence.

In the words “Lift up your hearts” the pastor invites the congregation to rejoice in welcoming our Lord Jesus who will come into our presence in His body and blood.  These words encourage us to turn to our Lord for forgiveness as He comes into our presence in the Lord’s Supper and remind us to focus on Christ and the miracle He is about to carry out in our midst rather than being distracted by worldly things.  In the response, the congregation states that as it prepares to receive the Lord’s Supper, it is doing just this.

When our Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper He gave thanks over bread and wine.  Another name for the Lord’s Supper that comes from the early Church is “Eucharist.”  The term “Eucharist” is based on the Greek verb that means “to give thanks.”  The pastor invites the congregation to give thanks to God for the salvation that Jesus Christ has won for us and for Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament through which Jesus delivers the benefits of His cross to us.  In its reply to the pastor, the congregation agrees that giving thanks to the Lord our God is the only right and fitting thing to do when Christ comes among us in his body and blood in order to deliver forgiveness to us.

Proper Preface

In the Proper Preface we give thanks to God for the salvation He was won for us through Jesus Christ.  This portion of the liturgy is the called the Proper Preface because there is a prayer for each season of the Church year and for some individual festivals.  Each of these prayers focuses on a particular part of God’s saving action that we meet in that season.  All of the Proper Prefaces end with the words, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying….”  These words introduce the Sanctus and remind us that in the liturgy of the Divine Service we join in the heavenly liturgy as we are united with the angels and the saints who have gone before us in praising God.  In the Divine Service we experience “heaven on earth” as we receive a foretaste of the feast to come.


Isaiah 6:1-3 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.  Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Psalm 118:25-26 O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you from the house of the Lord.

Matthew 21:8-9 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.  The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

The Sanctus takes its name from the cry of the angels, “Holy, holy, holy,” that Isaiah heard in God’s presence.  The Latin word for “holy” is “sanctus.”  The Sanctus is the Hymn of Praise in the Service of the Sacrament, just as the Gloria in Excelsis and “This is the Feast” are the Hymn of Praise in the Service of the Word.  As Christ comes into our presence and delivers the salvation He won for us, we break forth in praise.  In the Sanctus we acknowledge that we stand in the presence of the holy God who comes into our midst in His body and blood.  We join the song of the angels and all the saints, just as the words that conclude the Proper Preface indicate.  As we prepare to encounter God in a way that does not occur at any other time, we confess that in the Divine Service we experience “heaven on earth” – God in our midst.

The phrase “Hosanna” is Hebrew for “save us!” and comes from Ps. 118.  The crowds in the Jerusalem used the words of Ps. 118 and said “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” as Jesus arrived and entered Jerusalem.  We use these same words to greet Jesus Christ as He comes to us in His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Isaiah 25:6 The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain.

Matthew 8:11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

This prayer continues the theme of thanksgiving for Christ’s work of salvation and the gift of His body and blood by which he delivers the forgiveness of sins won on the cross.  As we gather in the remembrance of Jesus we pray that God would strengthen us through the work of the Spirit.  We pray that we would be gathered together on the Last Day with all the faithful at the great feast of salvation, of which we receive a foretaste in the Lord’s Supper.

Lord’s Prayer

Very early in her history, the Church recognized that the Lord’s Prayer was a natural choice for use at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord was the source of both and therefore it was fitting that the prayer the Lord gave should be used at the Supper the Lord had given.  As we have learned, the Second Petition (“Thy kingdom come”), Fourth Petition (“Give us this day our daily bread”) and Fifth Petition (“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”) are closely linked with the Lord’s Supper.

The Words of our Lord (Words of Institution)

The Words of Institution as spoken in the liturgy of the Divine Service draw upon the various biblical accounts from Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians. They take in the whole biblical witness. The Words of Institution are a word of Gospel.  As Gospel, they are meant to be proclaimed to Christ's people. For this reason, the Words of Institution are addressed to the congregation during the Lord's Supper.  Jesus' words do what they say.  After Christ's called servant speaks these words over bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ are present on the altar.  For this reason, the pastor then bows in adoration of Christ who is present in His body and blood.

Pax Domini

“Pax Domini” is Latin for “Peace of the Lord.  The Pax Domini is a declaration of the peace that comes from the Lord.  As the pastor speaks the Pax Domini, he directs the congregation toward the source of this peace – the body and blood of the crucified and risen Lord.

The Pax Domini also reminds the congregation of the need for peace among those receiving the Lord’s Supper.  It is a reminder of the need for forgiveness and reconciliation as we avoid bringing our divisions to the Lord’s Supper, which is the sacrament of unity.

Agnus Dei

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Agnus Dei is Latin for “Lamb of God” and is based on John the Baptist’s statement about Jesus Christ.  It is a hymn of adoration directed toward Christ as we greet the One who is present for us in His body and blood on the altar.  It confesses the presence of Christ’s true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper and the benefits it brings.


We kneel at the communion rail out of reverence for Christ who is present in His body and blood.  When we kneel we involve our whole person, body and soul, in worship.  The pastor distributes the Lord’s body, because he bears responsibility for those who are admitted to receive the Sacrament.  The words used in the distribution emphasize that the body and blood of Christ are being given to each person.  Communicants may have the Lord’s body placed in their mouth or they may lay one hand on top of the other and receive it in their hand.  Communicants say “Amen” after receiving the body and blood in order to confess their faith in the gift Christ gives.


John 6:53-54 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The Large Catechism states regarding the Lord’s Supper, “Therefore, it is appropriately called food for the soul, for it nourishes and strengthens the new creature” (5.23).  Later it states, “We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine that aids you and gives life in both soul and body.  For where the soul is healed, the body is helped as well” (5.68).  This truth is confessed when the pastor states that the body and blood Christ strengthens and preserves the whole person, body and soul.  As we have seen, the reception of the body and blood of Christ assures us that we will share in Christ’s resurrection on the Last Day and will enjoy life everlasting.  The pastor tells us we can depart in peace because in the Lord’s Supper we have received the forgiveness of our sins.

Post-Communion Canticle

Luke 2:27-32 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law,  then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

Nunc Dimittis is Latin for “now you let depart,” which were the words spoken by Simeon when he held the infant Jesus.  Simeon’s words are appropriate for us to sing after the Lord’s Supper because having received the forgiveness of sins from Christ, we are able to depart in peace.  Just as  Simeon could say his eyes had seen the Lord’s salvation when he held the infant Christ, we can sing these words because in the Sacrament we have seen the Lord’s salvation – the body and blood of Christ.

Post-Communion Collect

After receiving the Lord’s Supper, we give thanks in prayer for the gift of Christ’s body and blood that we have received.  We pray that as a result of receiving the Lord’s Supper, God would strengthen us in the faith and in holy living.  We thank Him for giving us a foretaste of the feast of salvation and ask him to keep and preserve us until Christ’s return.


Numbers 6:23-27 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.’  So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”

The liturgy of the Divine Service begins with God’s Name (the Invocation) and ends with God’s Name (the Benediction).  In the Benediction, God acts through His called servant to impart His Name upon His people as they prepare to go out into the world.  In doing so, He gives them the assurance that they are His own and that the blessings of His Name – forgiveness, peace and salvation – are theirs.

Previously: A brief explanation of the Divine Service - part 1

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