The term refers principally to the elevation immediately after the consecration of each element (though see below). The practice by which the priest genuflects in adoration immediately after pronouncing the words "Hoc est enim corpus meum" and then elevates the host to show it to the people for adoration by them was instituted in the Western Church, in the thirteenth century, in opposition to the view that the host was not consecrated until the wine in the chalice had been consecrated too. Elevation of the chalice for adoration by the people was introduced only in the fourteenth century.
The rubrics of the Canon of the Tridentine Mass direct the priest to "show the Host to the people" rather than to "elevate the Host". But, while the direct purpose of elevating the host and chalice was to show it to the people in a period when most altars were so placed that the people were behind the priest, it is a liturgical expression of the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
This form of elevation or showing to the people is observed in Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, and some Lutheran liturgies. In the Protestant Reformation it was defended by Martin Luther and Gnesio-Lutherans .
Per ipsum ... omnis honor et gloria
In the liturgy of the Roman Rite, the observance of most Roman Catholic churches, the host and chalice are elevated at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. This elevation was called "minor" because the consecrated elements were not raised so high (since the purpose was not that of showing them to the people for adoration) and, it was not generally seen by the congregation, not being intended for showing to them for adoration. This elevation is considerably more ancient than the post-consecration elevation: it can be traced back at least to the ninth century.
In the offertory of the Tridentine Mass the priest raises the paten and the chalice to eye level, but at the minor elevation he raises the consecrated Host and chalice only a little (aliquantulum). In the Mass of Paul VI, on the contrary, the priest says the prayers at the offertory or preparation of the gifts while holding the paten and chalice a little (aliquantulum) above the altar, but is not told to limit the height at which he holds the consecrated Host and chalice at what was called the minor elevation.
The Oriental liturgies, in particular the Byzantine Rite (that of the Eastern Orthodox Church, also have an elevation of the consecrated Host, but this is rather a preliminary to the Communion, like the Roman Rite's "Ecce Agnus Dei". Following a more primitive practice, there is no elevation visible to the congregation concomitant with the Consecration. The altar (sanctuary) is enclosed behind the iconostasis ("icon screen"); and the most sacred moments of the Divine Liturgy are shielded from public view by closing the Holy Doors and the veil. The elevation takes place as the last ekphonesis (audible exclamation) by the priest before communion. He raises the Lamb (Host) slightly above the diskos (paten) and exclaims: "Holy Things for the holy!", meaning by "Holy Things" the Consecrated Body and Blood of Christ, and by "the holy" the sanctified people of God (who are prepared collectively and individually for the reception of the "Holy Mysteries"--i.e., Holy Communion). The choir responds by chanting: "One is holy, one is the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen."
A similar adoration of the Holy Mysteries occurs when communion is brought out to the faithful. The priest hands the chalice to the deacon, who raises it on high as he comes out through the Holy Doors and exclaims: "In the fear of God and with faith draw near." At this moment, everyone present makes a prostation (unless it is a Sunday or a Feast Day, in which case they simply make a bow at the waist) and the choir sings: "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us."
The only other ceremonial elevation of the chalice after the consecration in the Eastern Churches occurs after the communion of the faithful. The priest lifts the chalice and makes the Sign of the Cross with it over the antimension as he says quietly, "Blessed is our God...". He then turns towards the faithful, raises the chalice—which still contains the consecrated Body and Blood of Christ—as and says the rest of the blessing aloud: "...Always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." The choir responds: "Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise, O Lord, that we may chant of Thy glory. For Thou hast made us worthy to partake of Thy holy, divine, immortal, and life-giving Mysteries. Establish Thou us in Thy Holiness, that all the day long we may meditate upon Thy righteousness. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!"
The Lutheran Church is by no means uniform in the practice of the elevation. Luther himself sometimes commended the practice and sometimes thought it an adiaphoran. After the reformation, the elevation was largely dispensed with in practice. The Lutheran Church puts the eucharist in the category of beneficium rather than sacrificium. That is, it is a gift from God to us rather than from us to God. However, a renewed interest in liturgy has brought the practice back to some Lutheran congregations.
In the Lutheran churches where it is practiced, the elevation takes place immediately after the consecration of the elements. This elevation gives opportunity to confess the real presence of Christ in, with, and under the elements by bowing deeply at the waist or genuflecting. It is also elevated after the Lord's prayer, sometimes by using the elements to make the sign of the cross over the congregation.
The precise practice of the elevation in the Lutheran communion is less uniform than in the Roman or Eastern communions. Therefore, a variety of specific practices exist within the Lutheran communion for the elevation and adoration of the elements.
- The Elevation article in Catholic Encyclopedia
- dicit: "Hoc est enim Corpus meum. Quibus verbis prolatis, statim Hostiam consecratam genuflexus adorat: surgit, ostendit populo ... "
- Elevation article in Christian Cyclopedia
- How Not to Say Mass, by Dennis C. Smolarski, published by Paulist Press, 2003, ISBN 0809141647, p. 76
- The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 1969-2002, by Dennis Chester Smolarski, Liturgical Press, 2003, ISBN 0814629369, p. 24, footnote 5
cs:Pozdvihování fi:Elevaatio sv:Elevation (liturgi)