The Words of Institution and the Pax Domini (p. 27)
These words begin the center and heart of the entire service (taken from Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Here are Jesus’ own words declaring what this eating and drinking means, and what it is for. Lutherans take Jesus at His Word; no matter how incomprehensible it is to us, we believe that the bread and wine, because of Jesus Word, are what He says they are. His flesh is true food, and His blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever (John 6:55, 58)!
By Christ’s Word, unseen to human eyes, there is a union of the bread and wine with His own Body and Blood. In the eating and drinking, we find true peace, thus the Pax Domini (Latin for “Peace of the Lord”). It is indeed always with us: here on earth, “as oft as ye [eat and] drink it,” and eternally when we will see Christ in all His glory, no longer hidden under bread and wine. The congregation responds with, “Amen”; yes, Lord, may it be so–it is indeed so.
The Agnus Dei, Distribution, and Nunc Dimittis (p. 28-29)
With the Agnus Dei (Latin for “Lamb of God”), we follow the example of John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36)! This hymn is given all the more meaning since in the Supper we have Jesus’ promise that He who was crucified comes and feeds us. He takes our sin away and He gives us His peace. With this in mind, we approach the Lord’s Table to receive these holy and precious gifts. The pastor and those assisting act as Christ’s hands and mouth as they give into our mouths the bread and wine, Body and Blood, and speak into our ears that this meal is for us.
Having received forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through Christ’s Body and Blood, we depart His Table in peace. When all have eaten and drunk, we stand to sing the hymn of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis (Latin for “Now let [Thy servant] depart”) (Luke 2:29-32). Here we rejoice in this great gift, and give thanks to God for the fulfilling of His promise to send a Savior. We have indeed seen (and tasted!) our Lord’s salvation; we hold up this salvation as a “Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel.” We close with the Trinitarian termination since our salvation is a gift of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Thanksgiving and Post-Communion Prayer (p. 30-31)
The Communion liturgy concludes with words of Thanksgiving from Psalm 118:1, 29, which ties it to the Sanctus (see also, Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 136:1). Jesus is indeed good to us, and His Supper is one way He shows His goodness and mercy. During the more contemplative season of Lent, First Lutheran uses the words from 1 Corinthians 11:26.
Both Collects sum up the whole Communion. In the first, we give thanks to God for refreshing us with “this salutary gift” and ask that by the Sacrament we may be strengthened in faith toward God and love toward others. In the second, we give thanks for “pardon and peace” and we ask our hearts and minds would evermore be ruled by the Holy Spirit so that we might serve God constantly.
The Salutation, Benedicamus, Benediction (p. 31)
The Salutation is once again the mutual blessing of pastor and people, this time at the close of the service. The Benedicamus (Latin for “Let us bless”) is the acknowledgement of the Church that it is God who is worthy of our praise, and we thank Him for His gifts to us. The Benediction comes from Aaron’s blessing of the people in Numbers 6:24-26. It is the Lord Himself who blesses us as we leave His house: “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27). The three-fold form of the Benediction (see 1 Corinthians 13:14) recalls to us God’s Name as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the initial time His Name was placed upon us in Baptism. Thus, it is appropriate to make the sign of Christ’s cross upon ourselves.
This final blessing of the service also reminds us of Christ’s blessing as He ascended to the Father (Luke 24:50-51). While He is no longer with us in the same way as He was before His Resurrection and Ascension, we take comfort in His promise that He is with us always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20; see Matthew 18:20).
The Closing Hymn
We conclude the service with a final hymn. This hymn usually connects with the theme of the day, or it is taken from hymns appropriate to the close of the service or our missionary activity once we leave the church. The Amen of this hymn is a fitting close to the entire service and there is time for silent prayer as the chimes or choir finish.
And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. (Psalm 40:3, KJV)