Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
By Larry Beane
This is the kind of thing that happens when there is such a dearth of rubrical instruction in our churches.
The word on the street is that Fr. Curtis is working on a Liturgical Guide to Livestock Processions: A Lutheran Dromedarial (One Year Series Edition) - hopefully, coming to a living nativity scene near you some time before Christmas 2011. Stay tuned to Lulu and Gottesdienst Online, and for the time being, it's best just to stick with dogs and ponies.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
. A Gottesdienst book by Burnell F Eckardt Jr. 118 pages, paperback. Available at www.lulu.com for $18.00 + s&h. Order quickly to get it for Christmas.
The purpose of this manuscript is twofold: first, to present the Divine Liturgy in such a way as to highlight its beauty and dignity, and second, to show the liturgy's necessity by making the connection between Christ’s fulfillment of the entire Old Testament and the proclamation of this fulfillment by the liturgy. It is not accidental that the term “new testament” refers both to the canon of apostolic books arising after Christ’s ministry and to the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. There is an integral connection between word and worship, between faith and the reception of the incarnate Christ. And just as the written New Testament is the word of God, and therefore the ultimate norm and rule for all of Christian life, so the new testament as sacrament, in Christ’s blood, must be the heart of truly Christian worship, from which all other forms of devotion and piety flow.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Four times a year, the Western Church observes the changing seasons with prayer and fasting. These are the Ember Days - the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after St. Lucy's Day, in the First Week of Lent, after Pentecost, and after Holy Cross Day.
The Ember Days in Advent
Simple – Violet Vestments – Advent Preface
Beginning of the Divine Service: Turn to (A) Divine Service p. 394
Drop down, ye heavens, from above, † and let the skies póur down ríghteousness: * let the earth open, and let them bríng forth sálvation (Isaiah 45: 8)
The heavens declare the glóry of God; * and the firmament shéweth his hándywork.
Glory be to the Fáther and tó the Son * and tó the Hóly Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and éver sháll be, * wórld without énd. Amen. (Psalm 19: 1)
Turn to (C) Kyrie p. 396
(D) Collect of the Day
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almìghty God: that the coming festival of our redemption may obtain for us the comfort of Thy help in this lìfe; and in the life to come the reward of eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, oùr Lord; who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Hòly Ghost: ever one God, world without end. Amen.
(E) First Lesson: Isaiah 2: 2-5
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; † and be ye lift up, ye éverlásting doors; * and the King of glóry sháll come in.
Who shall ascend into the híll of the LORD? * or who shall stand ín his hóly place?
He that hath clean hands, ánd a púre heart. (Psalm 24: 7, 3, 4a)
Collect for Ember Day
Arise, O Lord, we prày Thee: and delay not to bestow upon us the succour of Thy heavenly mìght; that they, which put their trust and confidence in Thy mercy may be succoured by the comfort of Thy coming; who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Hòly Ghost: ever one God, world without end. Amen.
(G) The Epistle Lesson: Isaiah 7: 10-15
Brethren: Moreover the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
(F) The Gradual
The LORD is nigh unto all them that cáll upon him, * to all that cáll upon hím in truth.
My mouth shall speak the práise of the LORD: * and let all flesh bless his holy name for éver and éver. (Psalm 145: 18, 21)
Turn to (I) Gospel Preparation p. 397
(J) The Holy Gospel: Luke 1: 26-38
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Monday, December 13, 2010
"So anyway, how do you support one and not the other?"
Saturday, December 11, 2010
It has become cliché that there are two extremes for everything. And this often leads to the conclusion that the answer to "extremism" is to be lukewarm. In liturgical matters, the reasoning runs like this: In the LCMS, one can find both praise bands and dancing girls on the one hand, and Gregorian chant and "smells and bells" on the other. And since these represent the "liturgical extremes" in our synod, they both must be "wrong"; the "right" answer must be a compromise position in the mushy middle. There is an assumption of the equality of opposites.
In other words, if liturgical dancers are bad, so must liturgical incense. If we are opposed to Amy Grant, we must equally decry Gregorian chant. This reasoning is often hurled at those who are sometimes labeled "high church." This logic equates the lady in the skin-tight leotard to the lady covered by the mantilla - and condemns them both as the same side of the extremist coin.
So, according to this line of thought, the "right" way to conduct a Lutheran liturgy is to be liturgical, but not too liturgical; reverent, but not too reverent. Page 15 (or its modern incarnation, page 184) is fine, but without all of the chanting. A plain-vanilla recitation of the Words of Institution is encouraged, but without the genuflecting and elevating. Stole and alb are good, but chasubles represent "extremism." The goal is to become a raging moderate.
The Rev. Prof. John Pless once cited a quip (if memory serves) that the Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel advised, tongue in cheek, that pastors wear their stoles a little crooked lest they be accused of being "high church."
I believe the solution to the plague of our liturgical diversity in the LCMS does not lie in some kind of golden middle, a compromise position that equates tradition with innovation and tries to play to the majority (and ends up like the proverbial possum on the yellow line in the middle of the road). Rather, I think we should consider what is being confessed and what our circumstances are.
Luther complained that, in his day, vestments and such were treated in a superstitious way - as though the vestments and candles were the beating heart of the church (e.g. SA Preface:13; LC 1:314). And thus, canon laws developed that micromanaged such aspects as to what had to be worn for what service and how many candles had to be placed on the altar. This represents the true extreme: not the existence of chasubles, but rather the notion that they add to God's Word. On the other hand, Luther famously chastised Karlstadt for his iconoclasm - for his extremism was the same thing: making the rejection of traditional vestments and liturgical forms an equal and opposite superstition.
The "happy middle" is not necessarily a "bronze age" page-15 service that steers clear of both hand-waving and kneeling. Rather, avoiding the extremes is essentially to avoid the superstitions and legalism, and to enjoy the rich heritage of the church without turning them into a kind of cult, to retain the old and steer clear of the innovative - as is the liturgical position laid out in the Augsburg Confession and its Apology.
By way of example, I just finished reading the now-sainted Richard Wurmbrand's In God's Underground. It is a more complete and autobiographical account than his bestselling Tortured for Christ. Wurmbrand was a Lutheran pastor who courageously spent many years in prisons in Romania (as did his wife and son) for his Christian witness and ministry behind the Iron Curtain. He went on to expose Communism to the west, and with his wife and son, founded Voice of the Martyrs.
I highly recommend this book as a spiritual exercise. It provides the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of confessing Christ, of the role of faith, and the inevitability of the cross as part and parcel of the Christian life. The book has very little Scripture and almost no doctrine. It is not a theological treatise. Nor is it dry history or personal hagiography. It is an account of the triumph of faith and love in the most horrific of real-world conditions. It is a good thing for American Christians to read, especially given that with few exceptions among us, we do not suffer for the faith. And it is written by a Lutheran pastor to boot. We have the luxury of debating doctrine and practice, and then going out for a steak dinner with our families afterward.
Not so for Christians who labor under oppression.
One passage struck me as being of particular interest to Gottesdienst readers, and led me to ponder the matter of liturgical extremism.
On page 203, Blessed Richard writes about the Divine Services that he conducted in between his two periods of imprisonment, the brief time he had in leading his congregation as a free man outside of prison, after the church buildings had been confiscated. He writes:
"Our services were as simple and as beautiful as those of the first Christians 1900 years ago.... Sometimes we met in open country. The sky was our cathedral; the birds supplied our music, the flowers our incense, the stars our candles, the angels were the acolytes who lit them, and the shabby suit of a martyr just freed from prison meant far more to us than the most precious priestly robes."
What strikes me here is that Pastor Wurmbrand gives us a window as to what the Lutheran liturgy of his time and place looked like (before Communism seized the building and the implements of worship). Notice, he speaks of these things as beautiful, but not necessary. He does not attack such things as vestments and incense, and nor does he treat them as the very essence of Christian worship. He is avoiding the extremism of both groups criticized by Luther: those who clung to the superstition of tradition as essence and those who clung to the opposite superstition of iconoclasm as essence. The Word and the Sacraments are the substance, and beautiful reverence is a confession - whether the reverence manifests itself in the chirp of a meadowlark or the chant of a choir. And yet, the Word endures, whether in a Romanesque cathedral or a Romanian torture chamber, whether amid the smells of living tree sap in the forest, or surrounded by the aroma of tree sap that has been collected and placed into a thurible to be burned in a church edifice. All of these beautiful things serve to confess the Triune God, the Atoning Christ, and His Word and Sacraments among his holy people. All of these things aid our worship in the very real world in which our Lord took human flesh and dwelt among us.
Note that Wurmbrand does consider beauty - however limited by circumstance - to be part and parcel of Christian worship.
By necessity, the liturgy in these extreme circumstances was conducted in simplicity - but always with reverence. And the implication is that if Communists were not forcing Christians to worship in "basements, attics, flats" and "country homes" (p. 203), then the beauty of the sky, the birds, the flowers, the stars, and even the suit of the martyr would certainly manifest themselves as a cathedral, music, incense, candles, acolytes, acolytes, and priestly garb.
And how sad that so many among us are willing to surrender that which is beautiful and reverent not because of the force of Communism, but rather by surrender to freedom.
Let us continue to pray for our persecuted brethren and beseech the Lord that they may one day return to their peaceful cathedrals amid the beauty and bounty of reverent worship hindered neither by the sirens of the People's Police nor the siren song of popular culture. And let us pray that we may likewise benefit by the example, courage, and prayers of all the saints who have been formed by the cross through Word and Sacrament.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
OT Isaiah 9:2-7
Epistle Titus 2:11-14
Gospel St. Luke 2:1-14
The readings erroneously put there are the readings for the First Sunday after Christmas.