Thursday, July 30, 2009
Conference theme: Not a Matter of Indifferent Things
This year we are pleased to welcome as our guests the three men who have most recently joined the staff of Gottesdienst as our online editors.
Reverend Frs. Heath Curtis, Larry Beane, and Rick Stuckwisch will be joining us for a discussion of the Divine Liturgy of the Church, to provide their insights on the questions which arise in connection with the ongoing debates concerning why certain styles and elements may or may not be counted as permissible in worship, and what is at stake in the worship wars of the 21st century. Fr. Curtis is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Edwardsville, Illinois, and Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, Illinois; Fr. Beane is pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, Louisiana; and Fr. Stuckwisch is pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church, South Bend, Indiana.
Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. is our Autumn Choral Vespers, followed by our annual bratwurst banquet (if you haven’t had our award-winning Sheboygan brats, it’s high time you did!).
On Monday morning, following Holy Mass at 9:30, the seminar runs until 3:15 p.m. the following questions are on the table for discussion by our guests:
“So what's negotiable and what isn't, in worship?"
“Nothing is an adiaphoron in a state of confession: meaning what, exactly?"
“Is Gottesdienst adiaphora? Of course not, but why not?"
Tuesday, October 13 (Liturgical Seminar)
On Tuesday, matters raised in the Monday discussions will be considered further in a roundtable liturgical seminar designed to seek uniformity in our worship practices. Informed Lutheran clergy are particularly invited to provide input and exchange of ideas, although all are invited to stay for the day.
REGISTRATION: $25 per person (students $20) $40 per couple — includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental and luncheon; no charge for children with parents.
Log on at www.liturgyseminar.blogspot.com for details and to register.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Lutheran Blogger Wild Boar of the Forest has posted a link to this prescient October 1978 article (CTQ 42:4) by the sainted Rev. Prof. Kurt Marquart called "Liturgical Commonplaces."
The article is worth a fresh read, especially now that 31 years have passed, and we have been through two new hymnals since the article was written. It is classic Marquart: scholarly without being pedantic, deep without being ponderous, witty without being flippant.
On a personal level, Prof. Marquart was one of my favorite professors during my sojourn as a seminarian at Concordia Theological Seminary (2000-2004). It was a privilege to study the whole of the Book of Concord with him. I also took other classes with Prof. Marquart, including an elective on Lutheran Worship, and another on Apologetics. I found every moment in Prof. Marquart's classroom to be edifying.
He is also the first Lutheran pastor that I ever saw genuflect at an altar (which was his own parish church, Redeemer - Fort Wayne). He was a tireless defender of the traditional liturgy, and was fond of relating the account of how Russia became a Christian nation, with the Grand Duke's envoys being so impressed by the Greek liturgy that they could no longer tell whether they were in heaven or on earth. Prof. Marquart often mused about what their reaction would be today in many LCMS churches.
But what stood out most was Prof. Marquart's kindness, gentility, and compassion, his never being too busy or proud to chat with lowly students (in a half-dozen different languages). He was the type of Christian who would be completely and equally at ease in a palace, a parliament, or a Pizza Hut.
Anyway, we Lutherans don't believe in eulogies, and Prof. Marquart would likely tell me to stop singing his praises at this point and focus on the Lord, the Gospel, and the Holy Word and Sacraments, so I will.
Here are a few salient quotes from the article "Liturgical Commonplaces":
"'Hearing the Word of God' was once a weighty phrase, corresponding to an awesome reality. Today, in the thinking of many, the whole thing can be taken care of without inconvenience or loss of time, if need be, by tuning in to the 'Lutheran Hour' while devoutly chewing Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way to Six Flags!"These are just a few gems plucked from their setting. I would urge all to read the piece in its entirety.
"The notion of 'worship' in popular Protestanism does not seem to suggest anything so formal as a church service. It is more likely to be associated with rousing choruses of 'How Great Thou Art,' either at a Billy Graham rally or in a rugged setting out of doors, preferably round a campfire, holding hands. Mawkish gimmickry of various kinds is marketed as making for "effective" worship. Church services themselves, however, are seen as rather drab and dreary on the whole . They tend to be viewed not as banquets, but as menu-reading sessions."
"Repelled by this bloodless, Law-oriented, moralizing religiousity, multitudes seek solace in the murkiest, mumbo-jumbo and readily fall prey even to celluloid absurdities."
"Lutheran understanding of worship can still be aborted by means of a facile doctrinaire schematism which thinks rather abstractly of 'Means of Grace' or 'Word and Sacraments,' rather than concretely of Baptism, preaching, absolution, and Eucharist."
"If the Lutheran Church is serious about representing, not sectarian whims, but the pure Gospel of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ, then she cannot in principle wish to squeeze the devotion of Zulus and Spaniards, Chinese and Americans, Brazilians and New Zealanders, all into one narrow sixteenth century Saxon groove.... Here and now we must concentrate not on liturgies in general, or on some pseudo-cosmopolitan hotchpotch, but on a form or forms suitable to an English-speaking, specifically North American, environment."
"Granted the substance, then, form is relatively indifferent. But only relatively. 'Surely,' asks C.S. Lewis, 'the more fully one believes that a strictly supernatural event takes place, the less one can attach any great importance to the dress, gestures, and position of the priest?'. The argument holds only for a choice among equally acceptable alternatives. For surely nobody would care to complete C.S. Lewis' sentence like this: 'The more one fully believes that a strictly supernatural event takes place, the less one can attach any great importance to whether the celebrant is dressed in jeans or smokes cigarettes at the altar.'"
"It is indeed, an adiaphoron whther the Introit is spoken or chanted. It does not follow, however, that the Introit may, therefore, be spoken or chanted indifferently, negligently, or perfuntorily. That can never be an adiaphoron."
"A traditionalist Roman Catholic observed very perceptively of the post-Vatican II liturgical changes that a doctrine like the Real Presence can be materially altered and even surrendered without any explicit pronouncement, simply by a more permissive ceremonial (e.g. heedlessly dropping particles of consecrated bread to the ground)."
"To plead for mercy before a human court, for instance, while remaining seated, hands in pockets, and chewing gum, would be insufferable. It seems even more incongruous for a clergyman to sit down comfortably during the Kyrie or the Gloria in Excelsis, legs crossed so as to give maximum exposure to canary-colored socks, and gaze into the congregation to see who is there."
"The idea, for instance, that the Service should be 'meaningful,' that is, clear and obvious to any casual visitor who might pop in from the street, is short-sightedly pragmatic. A 'service' tailored to such a misguided ideal would comprise a melange of threadbare banalities, which even the casual visitor is likely to find unbearable after the third time - not to speak of the faithful who attend regularly for threescore years and ten."
"[Preachers ] must constantly build and reinforce a soundly, uncompromisingly Christian perspective. Preaching is this sort of spiritual battle for men's minds and souls. It is not an anemic recitation of pat formulas and cliches. That is merely sermonizing. Preaching is the ever-fresh exposition and application of God's living Word for today."
"If the liturgy is boring to children it is usually because the parents do not find it very interesting either. If children saw adults treating the Sunday Service as the most important activity of their lives, they would respect it too, and would never dream of treating it as a pop-event, to be tinkered with by every Tom, Dick, and Harry. A church which has won the conscientious loyalty of parents - particularly fathers (Eph. 3:15; 6:4)! - will have the devotion of their children too. But a church which abjectly capitulates to the whims and tastes of adolescents will have, and deserve, neither."
The article is chock full of Scriptural references, citations from the Lutheran confessions, and narrations of historical precedent in the Church - presented in a scholarly, yet almost conversational delivery that is anything but dry. It is as relevant today as it was three decades ago. Prof. Marquart will often challenge you to dig deeper theologically, will always make you think, and will occasionally make you chuckle out loud.
Once again, the link is right here for download. Coffee not included.
Thus, I am most grateful for the Lord's gift to me in my wife and children. I could not ask for better. Like it or not, fair or not: the Frau Pastor and her brood have a lot to do with how well the pastor is received in the parish.
All that being the case - what's up with this trend I've seen in installations and ordinations lately to make the wife (not so much the kids) almost a co-ordinand/installee? In one place the wife comes up right after the installation vows to be introduced effusively by the Officiant (to much applause), right in the midst of the service. In another, the ordinand sits with his wife in the front pew rather than in that lonely chair near the chancel steps. In yet another the wife puts the stole on the ordinand - (I am not making that up - there are pictures out there to prove it, but charity precludes posting them here). In all places (it seems) it has become "Pastor Schickelgrüber and Sally" in the installation/ordination sermon.
I think I get what these well-meaning folks are getting at: like I said, the missus can really help a given missus dominicus to swim or sink at a given parish. So, they figure, she ought to get a little credit at the Big Show. This is taken to a greater extreme in the PLI culture of a "ministry team" - indeed at PLI camp, pastor and wife are expected to show up for the training - and no kids allowed, even nursing infants (I am not making this up, either.).
But I think the introductions during the installation, the sitting with the wife during the ordination, the "and Sally" in the sermon actually backfire and put more pressure on pastoral wifery. It all reinforces the ultimately unhelpful idea of the "ministry team." My wife is not in the ministry anymore than my mom was a meat cutter or on a "meat cutting team" because my dad worked at Econofoods. The ministry team mentality just serves to make the wife even more of a lightening rod for the pastor's failings in his calling - as well as setting expectations for the wife's life in the parish that are unrealistic and unhelpful, especially to the introverted and just plain not-interested-in-teaching-Sunday-School-thanks-anyway.
The good pastoral wife is a good wife. That's what the Bible says: the bishop should manage his household well, not that his wife be his "ministry partner," whatever that might mean. And the calling of Christian wife and mother in the fishbowl of the parish is calling, difficulty, and pressure enough for one woman. In a small parish, like the ones I serve, the pastor's wife is as likely as not to be pretty involved - all the people who are actually in church on Sunday morning end up being pretty involved because there are few hands to do the work. But the work she does is that which she would do in her parish were she married to a farmer rather than a pastor. At least that's the ideal - for her own husband will himself be tempted to load her with duties she shouldn't have to shoulder: and I'll be first to intone mea culpa on that score. Which is all the more reason to publicly demonstrate that this woman is a wife, not part of a two-for-the-price-of-one sale.
Of course, this could all be avoided by following the traditional rubrics of an ordination or installation. . .
PS: Speaking of ordinations - recently, I heard this one for the laying-on-of-hands blessing verse and I find it hard to beat, though I'd like to see your best shot in the comments.
"I am sending you to them, and you will say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God.' And whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house, yet they will know that a prophet has been among them."
Friday, July 24, 2009
Here is an interesting "diablog" between Deacon Latif Gaba and Dan at Necessary Roughness regarding the Holy Eucharist - more specifically, the practical issue of how the reliquiae (the unconsumed consecrated elements) should be treated.
It's nice to see spirited discussion carried on respectfully by both sides.
As a comment to his own blog post (and as such, might be missed even by subscribers), Deacon Gaba has an eloquent and helpful little excursus that I think summarizes much of the controversy:
Beside the comment I posted at Dan's blog, I'd like to comment also on the following from his blog post:
"The Roman Catholic Church treasures the unconsumed hosts and wine because they teach that the elements have been transubstantiated, or transformed. The elements are parts of God and should themselves be adored, worshiped, etc."
A couple things.
1. There is virtually never such thing as unconsumed wine in the Roman Rite, at least when priests' practices are consistent with the rubrics of that rite.
2. The consecrated bread or wine that is unconsumed, whether in the Roman or Lutheran Churches, is not treasured because of transubstantiation, but because of the orthodox doctrine of the real and true presence of our Lord in the Sacrament. The way the RC Church conceives of the Real Presence is via transubstantiation. I see that as a flawed concept. Nonetheless, it is beside the point.
3. It is quite false to claim that either the Lutheran or the Roman Catholic Church believes or teaches that in the elements in the Sacrament we have "parts of God." God is never partitioned, or parted, from Himself, neither in the three Persons, nor in the self giving of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Christ in His Sacrament is beyond all mathematics (as Luther put it at Marburg). For He is the font of endless mercy (as Ambrose puts it in one of his prayers). His sacramental body, like His ecclesial body, cannot be hacked into parts, but is an organic whole. Where you find one particle, you have the whole.
As Thomas Aquinas writes:
And whoe'er of Him partakes,
severs not, nor rends, nor breaks:
all entire, their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousand eat,
all receive the selfsame meat,
nor do less for others leave.
(A sumente non concisus,
non confractus, non divisus:
Sumit unus, sumunt mille:
quantum isti, tantum ille:
nec sumptus consumitur.)
And as Johann Franck writes:
Human reason, though it ponder,
Cannot fathom this great wonder
That Christ's body e'er remaineth
Though it countless souls sustaineth,
And that He His blood is giving
With the wine we are receiving.
These great mysteries unsounded
Are by God alone expounded.
The Deacon's words make me ponder the Eucharist and the Words of our Lord - (a common consequence of much of Brother Latif's writing and conversation).
This made me think about how I often hear from well-intentioned (but wrong) Reformed folks that we Lutherans believe in "consubstantiation." This would be the case if we believed the substances of bread, body, wine, and blood were intermingled as particles of one another and were somehow glued together, or if we believed the bread to be a conduit for the body of Christ and the wine were merely a vessel containing the Lord's blood. None of this is the essence (from Latin: "esse" meaning "to be) of the word "is." We Lutherans reject consubstantiation as much as we reject transubstantiation.
This is why Luther, in his debate with Zwingli, kept returning to the words of institution, the verb of which is "is." Jesus uses the verb "to be" without qualification and without sophistry. To put it the way many Roman Catholics (rightly) confess: "The Mass is a miracle." It should also be said that the word "sacrament" is based on a Latin way of saying the Greek word "mysterion." The Eucharist is a miracle and a mystery.
The "is" doesn't imply that it "is" for only a short duration of time (like the half-life of a radioactive isotope), nor that it is for the time that it is in the mouth of the communicant. There is an eschatological nature of the word "is" - concerning Him whose incarnate flesh "was, is, and is to come." The Words of Institution are the stuff of eternity. Just as the crucified, dead, and buried body of Jesus did not lose its divinity on the cross and in the tomb (to later return to the body of Jesus at the resurrection) - so is the reality that the bread "is" and the wine "is." The bread and wine have changed (while yet remaining bread and wine) - they do not merely "contain." Any attempt to impose rationality, compartmentality, or temporality onto the Lord's simple verb "is" is nothing less than intellectually manhandling the Holy Things. Even as the Lord told Moses, "I am who I am," which in no way is limited to the present tense (for God is eternal). Similarly, His body and blood are what they are.
And this is precisely why we Lutherans are so fastidious about consuming the elements.
For consumption of the elements is the only way that the Presence in the elements ceases. Not because God ceases to exist, but rather because the elements themselves do! When the host and the wine are consumed (through eating and drinking), they chemically disappear. Bread and wine are broken down by the body, converted into caloric energy (heat), and are, in essence, burned.
It is interesting that burning is the way that holy things that must be discarded are typically "consumed." Rather than have a holy thing desecrated (such as a woman's blouse that had the Lord's blood spilled on it as a result of Luther's shaky hand), the object is consumed through burning (as Luther ordered the blouse to be). Burning with fire is essentially the same thing as eating. Both result in the consumption of the elements - which prevent desecration.
We are indeed commanded to consume the body and blood of Christ ("Take... eat..."). The argument about tabernacling the elements - at least among Lutherans - has nothing to do with monstrances and superstition - as no Lutheran advocates such a use. Any attempt to raise that specter in this day and age among Lutherans is to make a classic straw man argument. Rather, the discussion has to do with the best way to consume the elements. Some consume them through immediate eating and drinking so as to avoid desecration, while others reserve the elements against the next communion (to be eaten and drunk) or in order to bring to the sick and shut in (to be eaten and drunk).
In the latter case, some pastors simply believe it is not fitting to use a hospital tray as a temporary altar. They also believe the sick should participate in the parochial Mass in so far as they are able. Consuming the elements consecrated at the parish altar is a way to do this. There simply are no Lutheran pastors seeking to use the host as a talisman. So any arguments concerning such abuses are not germane to the discussion. These pastors are, rather, seeking the most reverent way to consume the Lord's body and blood. And it follows that if one is going to reserve the elements (whether for the sick or to use in the next communion), a fitting box ought to be used - not a Jif peanut butter jar with a sticker on it that says "consecrated wafers" to be put in the cabinet next to the can of WD40 and a pack of Post-It notes - while the elements await consumption.
If we believe the elements "are" what the Lord says they are, we are going to be reverent, even worshipful, in their presence. Some Protestants, and even some Lutherans, have made the charge that those who adore the consecrated elements (whether at the elevation or when in the presence of tabernacled elements) are committing idolatry.
This line of reasoning led me to ponder the Magi.
For these men of the East made an arduous journey of hundreds of miles along the bandit-ridden highways of the fertile crescent so that they could worship God. But isn't God everywhere? Might they not have just stayed home? Instead, they traveled in order to worship God in His flesh, kneeling down before the Baby Jesus. They did not worship Him piecemeal, a thumb, an eye-socket, and a spleen. No indeed. They worshiped Him in His whole and holy body, in a catholic and wholesome sense. But neither did they worship Him from afar, apart from His bodily presence. Rather they went to where God was found physically. And they bowed down before His body, adoring His flesh. And it was in no way idolatry to genuflect and worship His flesh - for the flesh of Jesus is the True Body of Christ, God incarnate. His body simply is.
In fact, it would have been sinful not to worship the fleshly body of this little Nazarene Child.
This is said in so many words by St. Augustine:
"'Worship His footstool.' His footstool is the earth, and Christ took upon Him earth of earth, because flesh is of earth; and He received flesh of the flesh of Mary. And because He walked here in this very flesh, he also gave this very flesh to be eaten by us for salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless He has first worshiped it. Therefore the way has been found how such footstool of the Lord may be worshiped, so that we not only do not sin by worshiping, but sin by not worshiping." (emphasis added)A similar confession was made by St. Athanasius:
"If any one says that the flesh of our Lord as that of a man is inadorable, and is not to be worshiped as the flesh of the Lord and God, him the Holy Catholic Church anathematizes."Both of these quotes are endorsed by the Lutheran confessions, as they appear in the Catalog of Testimonies of the Book of Concord.
If we are indeed to worship the Lord's flesh, especially before eating it (as St. Augustine implores us to do), that has ramifications on how we ought to treat the elements which our Lord, in His miraculous and creative Word, has declared: "This is..."
Thank you, Latif and Dan, for leading me to ponder the sacred mystery of our Lord in His incarnate flesh and blood!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
by Larry Beane
A certain Gottesdienst editor (who answers to the name "Heath") suggested that I cross-post a recent Father Hollywood article regarding open communion and the Canadian Prime Minister.
So, here it is.
Since there has already been a good number of comments, please join the conversation in progress and comment over there if you'd like.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Enter the good vicar who took Altar Book and spreadsheet in hand and came up with the following.
The most conservative number we can arrive at is counting only the options listed for Confession, Kyrie, Hymn of Praise, Creed, Institution of the Supper, and Post-Communion Canticle in their various possible combinations as listed in the rubrics of the Altar Book (that is: we're not putting part of DS III in DS I or something like that). This yields 124 Divine Service orders in LSB - or, to put it another way, just using the options in the front of LSB according to the letter, you could go for over two years worth of Sundays without repeating the same order.
That's the conservative number counting only the ordindaries which the people sing and ignoring such things as placement of the Creed, having Communion or not, having an entrance hymn or not, differing distribution formulas, a common or proper Alleluia chant, the Introit/Psalm/Hymn option, different repsonses for the prayers, and different post communion collects. If all of those options are calculated you get 63,552 different options - or more than six score years worth of Sundays without repeating a service.
Now, that last number is more indicative of the vicar's zeal than anything else. But the first number, 124, is large enough and comes from what can only be called a conservative calculation based on a fair reading of the rubrics.
Of course, no parish is going to use all those. But it does point out the difficulty of really learning and being comfortable with all the settings and their major internal variations. And since just about all of those variations are used someplace on a given week, even if you happen upon a "hymnal only" parish on vacation, it's a roll of the dice as to whether you'll know the service coming in the door. As Fr. Beane said, this keeps noses in the book.
All the more reason for the modest proposal below. . .
Sunday, July 19, 2009
This just in: the Common Service did not fall from heaven, aglow with baroque gold-leaf. This is bound to cause some consternation amongst the Gottesdienst-liturgico-hypo-Euro-hobbyist crowd: but I don't care. It's time that canard went the way of the dodo. Furthermore, I am not afraid to say - yes, even here on the Gottesdienst Online blog - that there is no special indulgence or grace attached to that form of the Lutheran reception of the Western Mass.
I'm glad we got that over with.
But I will say this for the Common Service (ELHB 1893, TLH 1941 [p. 15], LSB 2006 [p. 187]) - it's a faithful Lutheran interpretation of the Western Mass. It's catholic and Lutheran - obviously embodying the best in Luther's reforms while avoiding his idiosyncrasies.* Comparing it to the pre-Tridentine Mass, the Common Service is remarkably conservative while being forthrightly evangelical. Whether spoken or sung to one of the several musical settings to which it has been put, it continues to serve parishes well - and has served any number of given parishes for well over a century.
Truly, the men from a variety of English-speaking Lutheran churches who sat down around a table to hammer this out deserve our thanks - and admiration. (Can you imagine a similar feat being pulled off today with LCMS, WELS, and ELCA? Ha!)
For more on the history and internal workings of this setting you can't beat Emmanual Press' reprint of An Explanation of the Common Service (click here and scroll down) - if you're the sort who can stomach reading books on a computer screen, it's available for free online from Google Books here.
Furthermore, if any service is likely to be familiar to a mixed Lutheran crowd (LCMS, ELCA, TAALC, WELS, LCC, ELS, etc.) this is it. It is in this special sense the Common setting of the Divine Service in English-speaking Lutheranism and her mission-planted churches. Most parishes that use one of the LW-LSB settings, or CW settings in WELS, or LBW settings in TAALC or ELCA, will also know the Common Service. In some places, undoubtedly, memory of it is fading - but it is equally certain just about everyone who was Lutheran and actively worshiping in 1978 will have a familiarity with it. Indeed, there are plenty of parishes (the two parishes I serve included) where this is the only setting of the Lutheran Divine Service in English that has ever been used.
So, to recap. You will not go to hell for using DS I, II, IV, V. In fact, it won't even offend God if you do use one of those. (I know, right?! Can you believe you're reading this in Gottesdienst?) But given the history, universal acceptability, catholic and Lutheran faithfulness, obvious staying power, and reach of this setting of the Mass, I'll make this modest proposal:
PROPOSED: That every English-speaking Evangelical Lutheran parish in North America would be well-served both for its own well-being and for the greater strength of all of North American Lutheranism to retain or gain familiarity and ease with the Common Service and keep it "in the rotation" if other settings are used.
* The three items from Luther's 1523 discussion of the Latin Mass that achieved almost no acceptance amongst the Churches of the Augsburg Confession: 1) doing away with saints' day Divine Services (he specifically mentions Stephen's and John's days for the axe; and Holy Cross day is "anathema."); 2) Alleluia should be kept in Lent, and Holy Week and Good Friday should not have special forms of service but rather a normal Mass; 3) The congregation should receive the Body, then the cup should be consecrated and everyone then receive the Blood. [LW 53: 23, 24, 30.]
Monday, July 13, 2009
Parish and personal duties have taken me to two events in Roman Catholic parishes this year – in two different dioceses. Back in January our parish choir participated in a Sunday afternoon “Epiphany Ecumenical Concert” here in a neighboring town and earlier this summer I attended a wedding in a Roman Catholic diocese in another state.
I was left with the impression that our separated brethren in Rome suffer under the same difficulties as we when it comes to reverence in worship – and maybe even a difficulty or two we have been spared.
For example, the ecumenical concert took place in what used to be a cathedral – it is now a parish church and still houses the bones of the first three bishops of what was once a frontier river port. I felt sorry to see the bones of these intrepid men being treated so poorly: the members of a Roman Catholic guitar choir had absent-mindedly leaned their guitar cases against the bishops' tomb. What is more, the stage for this musical ensemble had been erected directly in front of the altar of repose – and if the lamp was to be believed, the blessed Sacrament was indeed being reserved therein. Thus the group performed their music with their backs to the blessed Sacrament – and neither was any customary sign of reverence shown by any of the Roman Catholic participants toward that altar.
Neither the parish priest, the considerable number of nuns who were there to sing, nor the parish music director made any visible attempt to rectify the situation.
Bones buried in the sanctuary and a reserved Sacrament are rare in Lutheran Churches – though not unheard of – but the wedding I attended recently in a different Roman diocese highlighted issues more familiar to the Churches of the Augsburg Confession.
Since this was a mixed marriage, the Mass was not celebrated. Rather, a short marriage rite, very nearly identical to the LSB rite, was followed. See if any of this sounds familiar:
Lay readers, dressed as for a garden party in summer dresses that exposed the shoulders and then some.
The sister of the groom calling the bids for the prayers.
The “offensive” verses from Ephesians 5 concerning the wife's duty to her husband were simply elided out of the reading.
The chanteuse singing the verses of this Marty Haugen setting of Psalm 103 replaced every “his” with “God's” so that no masculine pronouns were used with reference to the Almighty.
Well. None of that brings me any Schadenfreude – but since misery loves company, I was at least heartened that the problems we face are not unique to Lutheranism. It is not some error in our theology, some fatal weakness in the Lutheran Reformation, that has led to the battles in our midst over reverence in worship. Rather, all Christians are fighting the sames enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil which do not want us to hallow God's Name or let his Kingdom come.
There's plenty of need for repentance and serious thinking about worship to go around.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Should the Church Wave the Flag?
The trend picked up steam in World War II, when the Italians too were suspected and so had to declare their loyalty. The flag issue became universal during the Cold War when everyone was expected to rally around the nation in its fight against its foreign adversaries.
But looking in back in time to the 18th century and before, to say nothing of the European middle ages and back before the invention of the very idea of the nation state, this entire project would have been completely unknown: the Church nowhere swears allegiance to the state and Christians are citizens first of a universal kingdom with a ruler chosen from all eternity.
Their vows are made unto the Lord, which is precisely why intellectuals like Rousseau said that the Christians make such bad citizens. He was right about that, if by citizens you mean a person whose loyalties are first owed to the civic collective.
Today, however, people think nothing about singing hymns of praise to the state in the very hallowed halls of the Church: America the Beautiful, The Star Spangled Banner, and more. A house of worship in my own town enjoys unfurling the largest American flag I've ever seen and pasting it on the side of the building, oblivious the reality of the intellectual and theological dangers here.
In recent times, very recent times, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has been singled out for special pressure from courts and judges, and this has changed many aspects of parish management in ways that truly do represent an intrusion of politics and state issues in a sacred space. This is a tragedy that is gravely regrettable, even deeply threatening, and one that should not go unnoticed.
However, the Church, as Pope Benedict XVI has written, does not derive its legitimacy or rights from secular or civil sources; its existence transcends time and place and its legitimacy is internally confirmed. Its liturgy should and must represent an exit from temporality and political issues and enter touch elements of eternity: this is where all its art and furnishings and music must point.
Hence, there is a sense in which the worship space must be a sanctuary from the grittiness, cruelties, and manipulations of such issues as nationalism and profane forms of earthly patriotism which are all about celebrating the control by the coercive state. Never mind the true history of Independence Day, that the motivation for political secession from Britain was partially religious in nature.
That history aside, there is no mistaking the upshot of July 4 celebrations today. So why sing traditional patriotic songs at worship? Signs and symbols drawn from world profane politics constitute a distraction from this essential task at hand.
It is a special temptation when Sunday falls so close to July 4. Surely people should be permitted to express their seasonal enthusiasms? I don't think so. Nationalism is not part of the deepest Christian tradition. Conventional songs of secular-style patriotism cannot contribute to the liturgy but rather depart, even radically, from its spirit and intent.
We live in times of hyper-nationalism, war, and all-intrusive statism that the Church is called to resist in favor of truth, beauty, and true salvation. It is an easy-enough step to sing the propers of the liturgy and leave the marches and statements of national fidelity to civic-pride parades, which, whatever their merits otherwise, will do nothing for our immortal souls.
July 4, 2009
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Thursday, July 2, 2009
Bloggers choose among these options for a variety of reasons, which in themselves are generally neither good nor bad reasons. At Gottesdienst, we have taken the first option, because we want to encourage the free flow of ideas and discussion of matters liturgical and theological, in the interest of promoting and preserving the liturgy of the Church, and, ultimately, in service to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The downside of our choice is that sometimes matters get a bit side-tracked, sometimes heated and argumentative, sometimes unnecessarily so. We put up with that because we don't wish to stifle the exchange, which, on the bright side, can often be as edifying and helpful as the posts themselves are meant to be.
We trust our readers understand and appreciate this for what it is.
For my part--and I expect I am not alone in this observation--it seems rather stunningly ridiculous for anyone to suggest that the manner in which we have chosen set up comments at this site somehow makes us personally culpable for the opinions of those making the comments, as happened in our most recent thread of comments. Is it not self evident that we should no more be personally attacked for what one commenter says than for what another says? So self evident, I might add, that it should also be patently clear that anyone who notwithstanding this chooses to paint us with a condemnatory brush because of the comments others have made here must be so jaded with an agenda against us that he cannot begin to be objective.
So let the reader understand: one must look beyond, even ignore, such things as sneering broadsides against "the Gottesdienst crowd," or wildly bogus accusations, not only because they are pitifully petty, but because they might otherwise derail the proper purpose for this blog.
We welcome discussion and honest debate here; we really do. We encourage readers simply to set aside the unhelpful remarks which will inevitably arise.