XXVIII: The Elevation

Q: Why does the pastor lift up the Bread and Cup after they are consecrated?

A:   The ceremony of lifting up the consecrated elements in the celebration of Holy Communion dates to the year 1208 when Bishop Eudes of Paris instituted the elevation to ensure that all could view the Host and Chalice after their consecration. This practice quickly gained wide acceptance in the Western Church.

Martin Luther permitted the elevation of the Sacrament to continue in the Evangelical Mass because it could have a good meaning: it stood for Christian freedom against those who would force the Church to abandon it and it gave proper honor to the presence of Christ in the Sacrament. In his Babylonian Captivity of the Church Luther wrote:

But this elevation is… an admonition to provoke us to faith in this testament which the priest has set forth and exhibited in the words of Christ, so that now he also shows us the sign of the testament. Thus the oblation of the bread properly accompanies the demonstrative “this” in the words, “this is my body,” and by the sign the priest addresses us gathered about him; and in a like oblation of the cup… For it is faith that the priest ought to awaken in us by this act of elevation.

Many sixteenth century church orders retained the practice.

Today, when the pastor, elevates the consecrated Host and Cup, it is appropriate for each person to pray silently the words of St. Thomas, “My Lord and My God,” while making the sign of the cross. Lutherans who retain the elevation regard it as a visible witness to our Christ's faith that the consecrated bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ.

Adapted from About Being Lutheran © Lutheran Liturgical Renewal 1991. Used by permission.