Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

« Scripture interpreting Scripture | Main | Dix on the Liturgical Tradition »

October 03, 2006


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Hi Chris,

Your post was excellent. I've printed it off to show to the elders and pastor of my Church.

This topic is of particular interest to me, since I have myself been barred from communion, theologically speaking for roughly ten years. And was wondering how theology (ie what one believes) pertains to this? If baptism is the gateway to communion, what of those who do not believe in the real presence, should they be allowed to communion in the Lutheran Church? And what about individuals such as myself who does not agree 100% with the Confessions, can I go ahead and take communion too? I know I'm asking a relatively personal question here, but I'm very interested in your thoughts on this.



Dear Chris Jones,

I hope I sent my email of the other day to your correct address. Did you receive it? Contact me: grailpriest at verizon dot net.




One thing that is easy to overlook is that LITURGICALLY Lutherans have always confirmed at Baptism. Precisely after the application of the water, the pastor lays his hands upon the head of the newly baptized and prays: "The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given you the new birth of water and of the Holy Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting. Amen."

This has always been a feature of our Baptismal rite, and in the LSB the laying on of hands may be supplemented by anointing with olive oil.

Significantly, again referring to the rite in LSB, the laying on of hands that takes place in the separate rite of Confirmation involves the exact same words: "The almighty God and Father..." Similarly, during the Easter Vigil at the "remembrance of Baptism" when the community renews its renunciation of Satan and again confesses the baptismal Creed, the pastor speaks this exact same blessing over the people, and in our place we do so with the sprinkling of water.

Further, the Lutheran Baptismal rite still essentially points to the ancient unity of Baptism-Confirmation-Communion by its final words: "Peace to you." This is a direct "link up" to the Sacrament of the Altar.



Chris Jones

Father Weedon,

One thing that is easy to overlook ...

Actually, I hadn't overlooked the Lutheran liturgical witness to the unity of baptism/confirmation. I thought I remembered including a reference to it in this post, but after searching about a bit I remembered that I had brought it up in an e-mail exchange with the inestimable Bill Tighe.

After Bill read this post, he e-mailed me and (among other things) he wrote:

I am a bit puzzled how you would defend historically the line that you take, viz., that the Holy Spirit is given in water baptism (alone).

To which I replied:

That is not exactly the line that I am taking (although it is close). It is not that the HS is given in water baptism alone, but that baptism and confirmation are not two rites, but one rite with a dual intent and a dual effect: to unite the catechumen to Christ and to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Dix says much the same thing, referring to the early rite of baptism/confirmation by the one name "baptisma".) The Lutheran rite is the same: one rite with a dual intent and effect. Since the intent and effect of the Lutheran rite are the same as the early "baptisma", I infer that the Lutheran rite corresponds to the unified baptism/confirmation rite of the early Church. The only difference is the presence or absence of a specific ceremonial with which the gift of the HS is associated -- but not the absence of the intent to bestow the gift of the HS.

In the classic Lutheran liturgy of baptism, the immersion is followed immediately by the laying-on of hands, though without an explicit formula identifying this ceremonial with the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, the neophyte is spoken of from that point forward (and not before) as having received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(The reference to Dix is to a lecture on The Theology of Confirmation in Relation to Baptism given by Dom Gregory Dix in 1946. Bill Tighe, who seems to have taken on the stocking of my theological library as a personal mission, generously sent me a copy of this lecture (which, like all of Dix's work, is excellent).)


I should have known you would NOT have missed that! *Confirming* your take on the unitary nature of the rite (pardon the pun!) is the following notice in the rubric of Holy Baptism: "While making the sign of the cross during the blessing after the Baptism, olive oil may be used to symbolize the sealing with the Holy Spirit for salvation (Eph 1:13-14)." (LSB Agenda, p. 5)

William Tighe

Interesting exchange. Now if you could get your hands on another, earlier, work by Dix on the same subject -- *Confirmation Or The Laying-on of Hands* (1938) -- a work so rare that I have never been able to purchase a copy and which it took me months to obtain a decade ago through Interlibrary Loan, we could discuss the related issue of whether the laying-on of hands without unction was regarded, by any Father prior to Tertullian, as sufficient to constitute that liturgical "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" which accompanied (either immediately before, as in the old Syriac tradition, or immediately after, as everywhere else) Water Baptism.


Interesting to read some Lutherans discussing this.

Tommy Lee makes the case that paedocommunion was the practice of the church until about 1500. If that's true then John H.'s objection on the basis of the change in practice might better be applied to the switch from paedocommunion, not back to it.

It is said of "a man must examine himself", that an infant cannot do this. But, neither can a woman, as she is not a "man". Thankfully we don't bar women from the Lord's Table on the basis that no woman can examine "HIMself". We know the Bible says that a man must work if he wants to eat, but obviously we don't apply that to infants either.

Also, I think its important to say that allowing the little children to receive Communion does not in any way correspond to to allowing non-confessing adults to partake. Baptism publicly announces God's ownership and membership in his covenant community, but a contrary profession any time after must be recognized.

William Tighe

It certainly was not the practice of the "Western Church" till 1500, and had probably ceased in the ambit of Latin Christianity by 800 AD, and maybe much earlier. It has remained the practice of the East to the present day.


A belated comment. I'm happy to report that my children have always been allowed to take Holy Communion in the LCMS churches we've attended and that from very tender ages. We simply asked the pastors of those churches beforehand and none were willing to turn Christ's little ones away.

David Whalen

Great post. I agree. If our infants can understand the gospel by the Spirit in baptism, then surely they will understand the Eucharist by the Spirit. I spoke about this last year with some professors at Concordia, FT. Wayne, and they agreed and believe the we should follow the Orthodox practice in this.


The comments to this entry are closed.