05 February 2009

Holy water?

An anonymous poster on Pr. Weedon's blog who calls himself "Michigan J. Frog" (what is it about Lutherans and anonymous posting?) has tried to poke fun at the Orthodox use of holy water, and the customs of Theophany.

On Pr. Eckardt's blog, there's discussion about the use of a tabernacle and the dreadful practice in many Lutheran circles of tossing the used disposable cups in the trash after communion. (I learned there for the first time of some consecrated wafers being tossed as well.)

These two things are connected.

Material things aren't neutral. Either the Church sacralizes the 'secular' (though, in truth, there is nothing 'secular'), or the world profanes the sacred. The Orthodox Church has chosen the former...


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Here's something I wondered about while reading that discussion of the tabernacle: don't Lutherans believe the bread and wine stop being the Body and Blood as soon as the service is over? If so, why is tossing out the leftovers so terrible? Still irreverent, sure, because it once was the Body and Blood, but not downright sacrilege, I'd have thought.


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Some Lutherans believe that's the case, Anastasia; others don't. This has been an ongoing discussion among them virtually since the beginning of the Reformation. Luther seems to have held that the elements once consecrated remain the body and blood of Christ. There is a touching story about the repentance and reverence he showed late in his life when he accidentally spilled some of the chalice. Melanchthon, on the other hand, is the father of what's been called "receptionism"--the idea that the elements are the body and blood of Christ only in the act of eating and drinking. Melanchthon's view, on the whole, has dominated Lutheranism.

Dixie said...

What surprised me was the mockery around Holy Water and healing properties. I had forgotten Lutherans didn't believe in things like Holy Water.

Along similar lines of believing the unbelievable I hope you didn't miss this from David Bryan's blog. Glory to God!

When I read people mocking holy water and when I read of miracles I just thank God for His great mercy and loving kindness in bringing me to Holy Orthodoxy. How wonderfully rich and deep is the Christian faith we have been given!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

My wife and I went to the monastery of St. Ephraim and saw the tree on which the Turks hanged him, and reverenced his relics. Regrettably, since we were not yet Orthodox at the time we could not see some parts of the monastery. Glory to God, who is wondrous in his saints!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Thank you, Father, for clearing that up for me.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Fr. Gregory, here are some more questions if you won't mind dispelling a small bit of my ignorance.

If Lutherans do not believe in holy water, in what do they baptize? Plain water?

If they have trouble with throwing out the cups after communion, what do they do with the water after baptisms? Or isn't there enough of it to have any left over? (Do they pour, sprinkle, what?)

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Lutheran baptismal rites vary in their approach to the water in baptism. If I remember correctly--and Lutheran lurkers are invited to respond on this--Luther did two orders of baptism. One, in 1523, retained much of mediaeval Roman practice; the other, in 1526, was edited more. (In both cases, there was an exorcism; today, in the 'normal' Lutheran service that has disappeared.)

Among pastors like Pr. Weedon and Fr. Hollywood, I'm sure the baptismal water is disposed of reverently. Whether their practice is a majority view, I rather doubt.

The typical Lutheran font is about the size of a large salad bowl. Water is applied by pouring it over the baptizand's head, often with a silver sea-shell (try to say that three times real fast!).

But again, my memories of Lutheran practice are growing ever dimmer. Lutherans are welcome to correct any misstatements.

-C said...

"what do they do with the water after baptisms?"

Well, in my former Lutheran parish, they pour the baptismal water outside on the ground in a place where it is not likely to become trampled underfoot ... same as they do at my current Orthodox parish.

Rosko said...

The Lutheran parish I grew up in had a font, donated by my great-great grandmother (who also donated the altar which is still in use) which was just big enough for the pastor to get his hand in. It is covered by a large lid in marble that matches the font. The water was poured down the piscina, the sink that goes right into the ground after.

The pastor simply used his hand to pour/sprinkle the water over the head of the baptizand.

Benjamin Harju said...

Man profanes the sacred creation, which we see in Genesis 3. It is used apart from God's giving, contradicting His goodness. Yet for the Church it is as it is for Christ her Head: her blessing is His blessing, His driving out the prince of this world, His returning creation to its proper alignment and relationship in the Spirit. In the case of holy water, I would assume its holiness is due to its participation in the Spirit-ual reality of the heavenly kingdom that Christ brings by the victory of His cross.

However, most Lutherans don't have any concept of blessed things. I know I was subtly taught that all that's just a bunch of Roman Catholic hocus-pocus nonsense. Only the two (or three) Sacraments have any real, effective "blessing" power (though the elements used to do that are just some sort of physical straw by which God siphons His gifts to us). While there was a strong emphasis on personal justification, there was a de-emphasizing and maybe even deconstruction of the cosmic effects of Christ's death and resurrection. There's a loss of what it means to be the Body of Christ. There's a loss of what it means that Christ is the New Adam and True Adam, of which the first Adam was but a shadow. Creation is saved, too. Creation is not opposite to the Church. Most Lutherans have never heard this, though some of this is (or was) touched upon in seminary.

If Lutherans laugh at holy water, don't bless their ashes on Ash Wednesday (or even have ashes), and toss out their communion elements, it is evidence of a continuing decline in both faith and ecclesiology, and an increase either in anarchy or legalism masking itself as biblicism. Anarchy does only what appeals to its own untethered, ignorant, and blind freedom. Legalism/biblicism requires faith to be legislated by a Bible without genuine context (i.e., show me where it says exactly what I don't want to believe or do).

Luckily not all Lutherans are the same. (Or is that part of the problem?)

-C said...

Sadly, it is part of the problem, I think.

Ignatius said...

Oh my,

In my life I have seen Lutheran baptism being done in the name of Jesus, heard of it being done in the name of the mother, the daughter, and the womb to pacify feminist parishioners, and also being done with rose pedals. Of course, in most Lutheran parishes this would be considered an abomination. However, said act could only start with a diminished understanding of Holy Water.

I have so many dear and beloved friends and family who are Lutheran. When I listen to what we are saying as Orthodox Christians I always try and put my self in their shoes. For those of us who are converts we must always strive for empathy, and this is difficult, especially in the midst of dialogue with those who do not see or realize the dangers of being in a broken fellowship. Many of these good people are hurt when they hear things that we say, and we should continue to be mindful of that reality in everything we communicate. We must, with tearful eyes, steadfastly pray for the uniting of Gods people to His Church, where they can all take part in the element of grace, such as Holy Water, given by God in His mercy and love for mankind.

Kyrie leison, Kyrie leison, Kyrie leison. Amin