The Q&A reply to “Is self-communion appropriate?” (December) rightly emphasizes the corporate character of Holy Communion. On that basis, Article 24 of the Augsburg Confession rejected “private masses” at which only the celebrant is present.
However, readers could conclude from the reply that if the friend of W.M. and his wife celebrate Holy Communion in her home along with one or more other lay people, it would be a valid Holy Communion.
That is not true according Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession, which states: “It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments without a regular call.” Arthur Carl Piepkorn, who taught at our St. Louis Seminary from 1951-73, pointed out that “regular call” is late medieval shorthand for the whole process of calling, choosing, and ordaining ministers. “Publicly,” he said, means “officially” or “responsibly,” not what we mean by “in public.”
At the same time, the Augsburg Confession assumes the celebrant will commune himself at a communion service at which other people are present: “the priest and others receive the sacrament for themselves” (24.34).
For an example of this, Piepkorn cited Martin Luther’s instruction in his Form of the Mass of 1523: “Let [the celebrant] administer the sacrament to himself first and then the people” (LW, AE 53.29). Piepkorn added that this was the usual practice of the Reformers, even when other clergy were present. Part 2, 2 of the Smalcald Articles, he noted, is about private masses, not self-communion.
Rev. Philip J. Secker
The Arthur Carl Piepkorn Center for Evangelical Catholicity
During the last year or so I have noticed several articles about who can consecrate the bread and wine for celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. The most recent is in the December Q&A, “Is Self-Communion Appropriate?”
I have in the past been located where there was no Lutheran congregation within about 70 miles. Available congregations included Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Primitive Baptist, Roman Catholic, and miscellaneous others. Most of these congregations do not share the same concept or belief about Holy Communion as do Lutherans. Some practice closed communion, and one celebrates it once a year. Some did not have an ordained minister of any sort.
Jesus instituted this meal and said to do it. I have not read where He stated the celebrant had to be an ordained minister, graduate of a seminary, overseen by an ordained minister, or some other officially designated person.
As regards the word communion, it can mean communion with one another. It also implies communion with God.
I suggest that where Lutheran congregations are present, participation in Holy Communion there is the proper manner to receive the elements. When such are not available, I believe self-communion as opposed to none at all is appropriate.
With reference to the “Q&A” column in December, is it true the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, is the Lord’s, His doing, and His bestowing by His means-of-grace office?
If so, then what is “self-communion”? I am not sure. It sounds somewhat like “everyone a pastor.” Is the woman who does the daily self-communion her own pastor?
What the Lord does and gives by His mandated means of grace, not without His means of grace office, is rock solid and sure. What is outside the Lord’s mandated doing and giving is doubtful, and doubt is inimical to the Gospel.
Rev. Richard A. Becker