Hello, and I am new to this forum. I am a Lutheran pastor for 28 years. I bought an Orthodox study Bible a couple months ago and discovered something I’m concerned about and have also concern regarding some info shared on this site. The study Bible and some on this forum do not have the true understanding of what Lutherans believe about the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion, Eucharist). Lutherans believe that Jesus is bodily present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Most “Protestants” believe in a spiritual presence only. However, Martin Luther’s position was this: Jesus is bodily present in the bread and wine because he said so—This IS my Body; This IS my Blood. We do not believe that Jesus needs the philosophy of Aristotle or St. Thomas to explain why. This cancels out transubstantiation. Also, the priest is not the one who brings this about. Only repeating what Jesus said is the substantive cause. Luther called it the mystery of the communion of attributes. Christ is able to make it so. I have always been taught this from my baptism in 1956 and at seminary. I feel that there needs to be a correction to this error in the minds of the Orthodox community. My only clue as to how this error came about is that Roman Catholics were so inundated with being accused of abuse, that they lumped Lutherans in with the others. Christ is present in the liturgy of the Communion service and there is no need for post-Communion adoration. Jesus is present for those who participate in the liturgy and for those who are taken the Sacrament due to ill health.
Christ is in our midst!!

Pastor Freed,

Welcome to the forum.


As a former Lutheran pastor I sympathize with your concern about misrepresentation, or perhaps, over simplification of various western teachings.

Much of that has to do with the fact that on this side of the Atlantic the Zwinglians and low Calvinists "won" the Reformation with Lutheranism reduced to a minority among Protestantism.

The key differences between Lutherans and Orthodox re Eucharistic theology and practice are:

1) Lutherans have historically been reluctant to speak an explicit epiclesis in the liturgy, the absence of which has sometimes been rationalized as being accomplished by the speaking of the Verba..

2) Lutherans have historically been quite unsure about "what to do with leftover Jesus" (as one former colleague crassly titled a newsletter article). "Receptionism" has been openly taught in many ELCA Seminaries, one of which, ironically, has as its chapel named "The Chapel of the Abiding Presence". The popular mindset seems to be that Jesus somehow withdraws His presence from the Gifts as the final Benediction is pronounced

I was always positively struck by the manner in which Joseph Ratzinger--both as Cardinal and Pope==would deliberately refer to "Lutherans and Protestants"....not "Lutherans and other Protestants". He recognizes that there are significant differences.

Looking forward to continuing this dialog!

Then a further problem, perhaps the main one, is finding a consistent Lutheran perspective throughout. I would venture to say there isn't one.

There are, as in Anglicanism, "High Church" Lutherans that I know who, for example, understand the Eucharist in a very similar, if not completely identical, way as Catholics do. They also directly invoke the Saints in prayer etc. I don't know how Lutheranism is structured internally that one has these kind of wide varieties of Lutheran faith and practice, but one does.

The Augustana Catholic Church is a small Lutheran breakaway that is completely Roman Catholic but that adheres to, as they say, "cultural Lutheranism" such as the use of Luther's Rose and the use of all red candles in the Advent wreath and other such minor, insignificant matters.

The Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue papers contain very detailed theological points of existing union and real differences on the score of Eucharistic theology, including the debate around consubstantiation and what it means to Lutherans (although that assumes there is a unified consensus among Lutherans on this and other points of faith and I don't know there is)>

I recently came across that there are churches in Germany that are shared by both Catholics and Lutherans and that, in some cases, this sharing has gone on since the Reformation! That was totally new to me and I was wondering if anyone might be able to comment further on that.
You are quite correct to recognize that there are "broad spectrums" of both practice and theology within the Lutheran and Anglican realms.

For example: Most Lutherans are catechized to believe that Baptism and Eucharist are the only Sacraments. But there is a minority stream (represented in part by Professors Eric Gritsch and Robert Jensen, both of Blessed Memory) who hold that Confession/Penance is the third Sacrament and that , according to the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Ordination might be viewed as a Sacrament because it makes the others possible. So there were a few of us (growing fewer all the time due to attrition to Rome and Byzantium) who taught and confessed that there were at least "three and one-half" Sacraments.
Bless, Father Deacon Thomas,

I remember reading how Dr Martin Luther, during a debate with Roman Catholics, referred to the Eastern Church as the "Better Half" of Christendom . . .

It is to be wondered if he had had a more intimate grounding in the Fathers of the East how that might have shaped his views and subsequent Reformation . . .?

Orthodox theologians in the 19th century saw, as did Luther, in the person of Jan Hus (venerated, as you know, by Lutherans) a person whose movement was essentially hearkening back to the earlier Orthodox period of his immediate milieu, Christianized, as it was, by the disciples of Sts Cyril and Methodios. They saw the same in the person of the Dominican reformer, Girolamo Savonarola, one of whose disciples became Orthodox and later a saint, St Maximos the Greek (and that of the Old Rite too). The Orthodox Akathist to St Maximos the Greek does refer to Savonarola as "Blessed Jerome."

The Orthodox Church of the Czech and Slovak lands has been promoting the canonization of Hus and his companion, Jerome of Prague, as Orthodox martyrs - they have a written icon of them along with the full Orthodox liturgical services to them.

I one wrote an akathist to Jan Hus, primarily for Hussite converts to Orthodoxy who continued to privately venerate Hus. Some German Lutheran pastors have since adopted parts of it and set it to music, as the Czech Orthodox Church intends to do (although I've not been following how that ended up).

Luther was known to "canonize" individuals he esteemed. He referred to Jan Hus as "my saint" and also to the Scottish Lutheran martyr Robert Barnes as "St Robert Barnes."
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