Thursday, May 21, 2009

When Is there Too Much Ceremony? and What about the Pentecost Vigil?

Too much ceremony? Can there be too much?

I believe there can be, which brings me to the subject of the Vigil of Pentecost.

The Vigil of Pentecost contains a number of rituals not normally seen in Western churches these days, to say nothing of Lutheran churches.

Is this a bit too much? Frankly, right now I think so.

The full text of this article, with some of the details of the Vigil Ceremony, is posted over at Gottesblog.



  1. There's probably good and superfluous in that vigil liturgy.

    FWIW, at the seminary in St. Louis today they had both incense and aspersions with baptismal water. I'll try to find out what, if anything, they did actually at the font.


  2. I don't know if Father Petersen would put it this way or not, but I got the way of thinking from him, so I'll give credit where credit is due: As I have said previously ("Why It Really Does Matter, Actually," my most recent post), I don't think it is a question of more or less ceremony, but rather a question of which ceremonies. There is always ceremony, in any case; but there are differences, to be sure, in what one does and how one does it.

    I believe this is more than a semantic point, as it changes the nature of the conversation. Ceremonies can be measured as to their helpfulness and appropriateness, but no ceremony can be faulted for being a ceremony; nor can there be "too many ceremonies," but only more or less helpful and more or less appropriate ceremonies.

    Doing nothing is its own kind of ceremony, because bodies live and move in both time and space. Doing things randomly, haphazardly, or sloppily is still a matter of ceremony; only it isn't helpful or appropriate. Simplicity is nothing but a different approach to ceremony than complexity; neither one nor the other is inherently meritorious, but, depending on the context, one or the other approach may be more or less conducive to catechesis and confession.

  3. Yes, I'll take that correction. It isn't a matter of quantity. What really inspired this post was my queasiness about baptizing a candle. Er, somehow, that doesn't seem right . . .

  4. This is what I love about Eckardt. He isn't set in his ways. He is still learning. he is willing to modify his practice. And he is thinking about everything, even ceremonies, in a theological/Christological manner. Then he shares them with us and is willing to modify. I like learning along with and from him.

    And here is what I love about Stuckwisch. He is gentle and nuanced. He carefully suggests an improvement to the argument without any superiority or malice. He is humble.

    I am with Eckardt on his queasiness about baptizing a candle. I don't do it. And I am also with Stuckwisch and Eckardt in thinking about how we speak of these things.

    Great post. Great comments. Thanks.

  5. Good and Reverend Gentlemen,
    I appreciate what has been said by everyone here so far. I would like to offer, as food for thought and possible discussion, another view. If you have time and interest, please read it here:


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