Friday, March 16, 2012

A Commentary on LSB's Rubrics for the Common Service (p. 184)

Specifically, I want to comment on the various options (the "may" rubrics) in the LSB rubrics for the Common Service. I will not spend much time below dealing with the various things that are not mentioned in the LSB rubrics: placement of celebrant and deacon, how to hold the hands, when to bow the head, genuflect, etc. Those things are ably dealt with in The Conduct of the Services by Piepkorn and McClean, whose rubrics are placed side-by-side with the Ordinary in Daily Divine Service Book and Daily Divine Service Book: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon.

Please see the LSB Desk Edition: Liturgy for further details regarding this service.

LSB became available in the second half of 2006. It is now the first have of 2012 and still no Desk Edition. Gottesdienst will be sure to provide a similar commentary(ies) on those rubrics when they appear.

Confession and Absolution

The presiding minister may conduct the Confession and Absolution from outside the chancel.

The minister does well to take advantage of this rubric. The time of public confession is, properly speaking, the preparation for the Divine Service and is thus fittingly conducted from the nave just below the chancel steps.

A note on "presiding minister:" this corresponds to the traditional term "celebrant."

A Hymn of Invocation may be sung.

The minister does well take advantage of this rubric. The singing of hymns is a hallmark of the modern Lutheran rite.


It is less awkward if the congregation is taught to stand for the first hymn. Then they are already standing for the Invocation. It is awkward indeed to have the celebrant's first action be the slow raising of the palms to have the people rise rather than the sign of the cross, or for his first words to be "Please Rise" instead of "In the Name..."

The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism.

The presiding minister may face the altar and sign himself, or he may face the congregation and mark them with the sign of the cross.

The celebrant does well to face the altar for the Invocation because, as the name indicates, this part of the liturgy is invoking God, not blessing the people.

[Invocation and versicles]

The celebrant faces the people, turning by his right, for "Beloved in the Lord. . . " and turns by his left back to the altar for "Our help is in the name (+) of the Lord."


If he remains standing, the presiding minister faces the altar.

Indeed, even if he kneels he faces the altar!

Silence for reflection on God's Word and for self-examination.

[Two options for the public confession]

The left hand side contains the indicative-operative, or Sacramental, formula of absolution. The right hand side contains the Common Service's declaration of grace. The left hand side option is not part of the Common Service and was not used as part of the Missouri Synod printings of the Common Service until TLH in 1941. The editors of Gottesdienst have had a lot of back and forth over which is the better option for public worship. I prefer the declaration of grace for pastoral reasons. Namely, I believe that one should not say "I forgive you" to someone unless one has actually spoken with them and know one should not be saying "I bind unto you. . . " This is an impossibility with a mixed crowd. Nor do I believe it to be the best practice to attach conditions to Sacramental formulae (Upon this your confession. . . ). Thus I believe the Sacramental formula is best reserved for the Confessional. 

Introit, Psalm, or Entrance Hymn
The presiding minister and his assistants may enter the chancel.

The minister does well to always avail himself of the Introit rather than a Psalm or Entrance Hymn. The Introit is an historic proper and should not be replaced with a Psalm or Hymn any more than a Gospel lesson should be replaced by a Psalm or Hymn. Frankly, this is one of the chief weaknesses in the Reformation era orders, in my opinion. They did indeed often omit historic propers or replace parts of the ordinary with hymns that can only be called paraphrases rather than translations. 

The "assistants" of the "presiding minister." These should be other other called and ordained ministers, the liturgical deacon [and liturgical subdeacon for those parishes blessed with three pastors] : see AC XIV. Of course, such assistance is not available in the majority of our parishes. Where it is, appropriate rubrics for liturgical deacon and subdeacon can be found in DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services by Piepkorn and McClean published by Redeemer Press.

[Gloria in Excelsis]

During Advent and Lent, the Gloria in Excelsis is omitted.

The Gloria in Excelsis is appropriately omitted at all penitential days, anytime the color is violet. It may also be omitted at any weekday Divine Service.

[Salutation and Collect of the Day]
The presiding minister stands at the altar facing the people. He may extend his hands in greeting with the words, "The Lord be with you."

He turns by his right and smoothly moves his hands out and then back to palms facing, with left thumb under right; then turning by his left back to the altar for the prayer.

[Greeting and response]

The presiding minister faces the altar.

By his left.

A brief silence may be observed.

The minister is advised not to take advantage of this rubric. It seems to me an awkward pause. I think the idea is the gathering of the collected prayers of the people - but again, it seems out of place in the modern rite where we specifically do not ask for prayers from the people at this point.

The presiding minister may raise his outstretched hands in the gesture of prayer while speaking or chanting the Collect of the Day.

A well proportioned gesture brings the entirety of the hands just above the level of the shoulders; care should be taken so that he gesture is symmetrical and that the fingers are held in order and not splayed hither and yon. Excessive jewelry, even a shiny wrist watch, should be avoided on hands and wrists. In short: distractions from devotion because of the minister's personal dress or demeanor should be minimized.


[OT Lesson]

Psalm or Gradual

The minister does well to always avail himself of the Gradual. As in the case of the Introit, the Gradual is the traditional proper and should not be displaced with another Psalm.

During the Psalm or Gradual, the presiding minister and any assistants face the altar.

They simply turn to face the center of the altar from where they are standing during the OT reading. Please note that all the clergy remain standing for all of the readings.



During the Alleluia and Verse, the presiding minister and any assistants face the altar.

The congregation sings one of the following, or the choir may sing the appointed Verse.

While this rubric presents the Verse as an option for choir only, like the rest of the intervenient chants, it is appropriately sung by the congregation, a cantor, or the pastor if no choir is available. And like the rest of the propers, the Verse should also be used. It is certainly fitting to have the Verse and the congregational singing of the Alleluias.

During Lent, the Alleluia is omitted.

For those following the Historic Lectionary, the Alleluia is also omitted during Pre-Lent.

[The Gospel]

This is the one place in LSB's rite where the people have a sung response and no musical notation is given for the minister's part. Just an oddity to take note of. One could, I suppose, have the people say their part, or provide simple musical notation for the minister's part. The say-sing manner of conducting service is awkward and counter-intuitive.


During the Creed, the presiding minister and any assistants face the altar.

For more details on where to stand, see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

Nicene Creed or Apostles' Creed

On Sundays and other festivals the minister does well to use the Nicene Creed, the Eucharistic Creed of the Western Church. At midweek Divine Services, it has been traditional to omit the Creed. At such times, it would be appropriate to confess the Apostles' Creed, the Baptismal Creed of the Western Church, rather than no Creed at all.


[Hymn of the Day]

Before the sermon the pastor may say. . .

This is a good rubric for pastoral and very practical reasons: it gives people time to put the hymnals away.

After the Sermon the pastor may say...

Again, this is a good rubric and one does well to take advantage of it.



While the offerings are being gathered, the presiding minister or an assistant prepares the altar for the celebration of the Sacrament.

Rather than either, both the celebrant and the deacon have roles to play in preparing the altar, if a deacon is available. For more details on altar preparation see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

After the presiding minister or an assistant has received the offering plates (or baskets) and raised them slightly toward the altar in a gesture of offering, they may be placed on the credence table.

The deacon should deliver the plates to the celebrant who raises them. The celebrant should keep his head and eyes cast down as he raises the plates to set this ceremony apart from the elevation of the Host, in which he gazes at the Host. The lifting of the plates is a ceremony of offering. The lifting of the Host is a ceremony of worship and reverence. Most credence tables are small and it is probably more useful to have the plates placed either in the sacristy or returned to the ushers afterwards. They should certainly not be set on the altar.

[Prayer of the Church]
The prayers may begin with the following.

When the Prayer of the Church includes responses from the congregation, one of the following forms may be used after each petition or bid.

The minister does well to take advantage of these rubrics, although note that the Prayer of the Church need not have responses or bids. If bids are used and a deacon is available, he should say the bids.

Petitions may be included for:
* the right use of Word and Sacrament
* the blessings associated with the appropriate season of the Church Year
* the Church and the proclamation of the Gospel
* good government
* special needs
For sample prayer texts, see pages 440-445.

These are fine suggestions and the prayers listed on those pages are fine prayers. It is hard to beat TLH's General Prayer for appropriate scope and diction. This prayer is easily modified to include the suggested response forms of the LSB rite.

The prayers may conclude with the following:

The minister does well to use this rubric.

If there is no Communion, the service concludes on page 254.

If there is no Communion you are using the wrong order! I would advise you to use Matins, Responsive Prayer, the Service of Prayer and Preaching, etc., but not the Divine Service. Although, I should point out that this "dry Mass" is of the very oldest Lutheran pedigree. In Magdeburg at least, during weekday masses, if no communicants showed up, the service continued straight through the Proper Preface and then abruptly ended. Better, I think, to have a non-Communion Order for what is meant to be a non-Communion service.

If there is a freestanding altar, the presiding minister (and appropriate assistants) moves to a position behind the altar.

A freestanding altar can be and, in my opinion, is best used as if it were an east wall altar. The reasons for this have been hashed time and again and I will not repeat them here, though some of the following rubrics will bring some of these reasons to mind. At any rate, for those enamored of Vatican II, you can find rubrics for freestanding altars in The Conduct of the Services.

"Appropriate assistants" are clergymen: the liturgical deacon and subdeacon.

Please turn the page to continue with the Service of the Sacrament.

This rubric always reminds me of a choose your own adventure book.



Facing the congregation, the presiding minister extends his hands in greeting while saying:

The presiding minister then lifts his hands while saying:

The presiding minister brings his hands together and says:

For more details on these gestures see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services. Notice that these are some of the few rubrics in LSB that do not present an option, there is no "may" here.

The presiding minister faces the altar to speak or chant the Proper Preface.

Here the chief criticism of the freestanding altar is easily seen. If the celebrant is behind the altar, then to face the altar he is also facing the people. And then he begins to pray. This seems downright odd. The people and the pastor should at this point all be facing the same liturgical direction if they are all making the same prayer. Thus, the Second Vatican Council's main point - the people as actors in the liturgy - is actually mitigated by this oddity of having the pastor face the people while he prays.

The presiding minister may raise his outstretched hands in the gesture of prayer.

The minister does well to do so.

The Proper Preface appropriate to the day or season is spoken or chanted.

[Proper Preface]

Note that there is no rubric for the traditional bowing during the Sanctus. For more extensive rubrics at this point please see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

The Lord's Prayer may be spoken by all or sung as follows.

This is another area of disagreement among the editors of Gottesdiesnt. Dr. Eckardt and I (and perhaps others) have championed the traditional method of the celebrant praying the Lord's Prayer with the people adding their doxology and Amen. Fr. Petersen (and perhaps others) has made the case for the appropriateness of the whole assembly praying together at this point. This argument deserves its own treatment, so we leave it aside for now.

[The Words of Our Lord]

The presiding minister faces the elements on the altar during the consecration.

This is a well-worded rubric. The Consecration is a tertium quid: spoken neither to God nor congregation. These words are consecratory. In that, they are both a sacrifice of praise and obedience, in that we are doing what the Lord told us to do, and they are a sacramental proclamation of the Lord's Testament. But mainly they are just what they appear to be: consecrating these elements. Thus, the celebrant focuses his attention there.

For a more detailed description of the celebrant's manner and movements during the consecration see see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

[Pax Domini]
Facing the congregation, the presiding minister says or chants:

Again, for a more descriptive rubric at this point, see see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

[Agnus Dei]

The pastor and those who assist him receive the body and blood of Christ first, the presiding minister communing himself and his assistants.

Thank you, thank you, LSB! This rubric is, as they say, worth the price of admission. It is a confession against Receptionism - for now, right after the consecration what we have here is the body and blood of Christ. And we get the clear restoration of the normative practice of all Christian history: the celebrant communes each and every communicant, including himself.

The assistants, again, are properly clergymen. It was simply unknown for all of Lutheran history down to the mid-twentieth century for laymen to distribute - that is, to take in hand fully half of the administration of the Sacrament. I, for one, am simply not convinced that the administration of the pastor's office is communicable to others. Shall he ask laymen to preach his funeral sermons while he sits in the pew so long as he is "overseeing" this preaching?

Again, for more descriptive remarks at this point see see DDSB: Rubrics for Celebrant and Deacon and The Conduct of the Services.

Then they distribute the body and blood to those who come to receive saying:

In dismissing the communicants, the following is said:

This goes a bit beyond rubrics to the actual order, but I especially like the wording of this dismissal. It is phrased in such a way that it can be read in English either as a blessing in the jussive or a statement of fact in the indicative.

At the conclusion of the Distribution or during the Nunc Dimittis, the remaining consecrated elements are set in order on the altar and covered with a veil.

This is the rubric that makes most clear the impossibility of using only the LSB rubrics. So you veil the consecrated elements and then what? Silence. Never mentioned. In the imaginary world where you can only do LSB's rubrics, you get an ever growing pile of left overs on your altar under a veil, for you are never told to take them out from under this veil and what to do with them when you do!

The best practice, as advocated by Luther himself, and, if I may be so bold, by Jesus is to "Take and eat, take and drink." Whatever is consecrated is best consumed at the Mass in which it was consecrated. This leaves the least room for "impious questions."

Communing shut ins from the Sunday Mass throughout the week has a long history in the Church and one certainly cannot say that it is unorthodox in any way. But I contend that it causes more pastoral problems than it solves and that it is best to follow Luther's advice: what is consecrated at the Mass should be consumed at that Mass, the celebrant and deacon doing this unobtrusively at the altar during the Nunc Dimittis. This calls for a little planning by the celebrant - and for using even a freestanding altar as an east wall altar so that the people are distracting by this consumption as little as possible.

If the presiding minister has been behind a freestanding altar, he may move to the front of the altar for the remainder of the service.

Indeed, he is advised to do so.


[Nunc Dimittis]


An odd time to use that word! But at least we got Eucharist in here somewhere. . .

The presiding minister and any assistants face the altar for the Thanksgiving.

The presiding minister may raise his outstretched hands in the gesture of prayer as one of the following collects is spoken or chanted:

[Salutation and Benedicamus]

Facing the people, the presiding minister stands at the altar. He may extend his hands in greeting with the words, "The Lord be with you."

This is always an appropriate gesture for these words.


Facing the congregation, the presiding minister raises his hand(s) and says or chants:

This is another rubric that makes me chuckle: it seems as though we have only a few pastors with two hands. Like forms for school: "Bring your child(ren) to the bus top by 8:15."

At any rate, either both hands are raised in blessing palms outward, or only the right hand is raised in benedictione: you know, like in all those pictures of the hand of God in creation.

The minister then does well to turn to the altar by his right for silent prayer.

Please note there is no rubric for a closing hymn - but it is a widespread and appropriate practice.



  1. You suggest that the pastor stand in the sanctuary for the Confession/Absolution. Technically this is the same as standing the chancel. What I believe you mean to say is that the pastor should stand in the *Nave*.
    Of course, popular usage has enlarged the area covered by "sanctuary" so that it is synonymous with "the entire worship space" (As opposed to the "fellowship hall"), while chancel is used specifically for the "front". I have never heard of Sanctuary used to refer to the area where the people sit, specifically and exclusive of the chancel/sanctuary. I think it is best when speaking technically, as you obviously are in your notes here, to keep terms as clear as possible.

  2. Herr Amt,

    Good point - I'll correct it.


  3. Say the black, do the red.

    I can't see the black words in this post.

  4. Paul,

    "Say the black, do the red."

    A good way to operate as far as it goes: but as you mentioned a few days ago, it is your preference to genuflect. That's not in LSB's rubrics. Of course, LSB's rubrics don't disallow it either. So I approve of your custom of going beyond LSB's red while staying in harmony with it.

    As far as your not being able to see the black words in this post: I didn't type them in. This is a commentary on the red. Or, if you mean you can't see the white words. . . this is a problem with blogger and the black background when the post goes to Google Reader or some such. When that happens, you'll have to come directly to this site to read the posts. Sorry. . .


  5. HR: It was humor.

    As for my doing of non-red things, that's me: Mr. Radical.

  6. So I'm not supposed to wear a flashy watch. Fine. What about livestrong bracelets?

    Also, I was wondering today what your thoughts are about the silence prior to the confession.

  7. K - No live strong, foot-in-mouth disease, or smallpox bracelets either.

    The silence before confession: I think it also has the great potential to be just and awkward pause. If the idea is truly to meditate upon specific sins, or sin in general, it would call for quite a long pause indeed. Surely it would have to be long enough to recite the Ten Commandments. Yet that is obviously not the intent of the rubric. Anything shorter than that could, I suppose, serve to highlight the upcoming words. An awkward pause attracts attention if nothing else.

    FWIW: we don't take advantage of that rubric here.


  8. I do give it a long enough pause to recite the 10 commandments (though I'll admit to reciting them rather quickly). I think silence is a good thing and any addition of silence a good thing. FWIW I think we are too wordy (myself included) and our words upon words are like a speeding train hurling down a track while the people watching see only a blur.

  9. Is a Vicar considered a clergyman in regard to being a proper "assistant"?

    1. Vicar,

      Good question. . . and a continual thorn in the side of our fellowship. The truth is, the way we do things the Vicar is a tertium quid: neither a clergyman, nor a layman. He is not rite vocatus, he is rite vocatur: in the process of being called.

      The Vicar (or seminarian) appropriately takes on many of the tasks of the liturgical deacon. Specifically: reading the lessons.

      We've spoken of the vicar at length on this website and if you search the archives you'll find plenty of food for thought.

      I think the LCMS would be better off with a different manner of doing things - but I don't think that is on the front burner of anybody with the actual power to change it.


  10. HRC: I'm curious when the rubrical change occurred concerning the celebrant facing the people for the versicles immediately preceding the Preface. My understanding is that the versicles were historically said facing liturgical east; i.e., not said to the people, and therefore, no turning back and forth.

    1. JWF,

      It is listed as such in General Rubric 71 of The Lutheran Liturgy. Piepkorn's The Conduct of the Service is the classic commentary on these rubrics, as I'm sure you and most of our other readers know.

      In looking at a Latin Missale Romanum, the story of the change seems simple enough to guess at. In the Roman Rite the priest is praying the Secreta directly before the Praefatio. He remains facing the altar: "Praefationem incipit ambabus manibus positis hinc inde super Altare: quas aliquantulum elevat, cum dicit: Sursum Corda."

      Since the Lutherans found most of the Secreta objectionable and many Lutheran rites did away with them, and specifically all rites ever used in North American English speaking Lutheranism (to my knowledge): it seems reasonable that the Lutherans would follow different rubrics.

      Indeed, the words are obviously directed to the people - at least to this Lutheran's ears - so it makes sense to face them.

      But as you can see, those are just my thoughts trying to connect the dots: it is certainly not an attempt at an accurate history tracing the decisions, dates, and persons that made this rubrical change.


  11. FWIW: Prior to rubrical changes in the Latin (Tridentine) Mass, 1955-1962, the priest more often than not faced the altar (i.e., liturgical east, not the people) when saying "Dominus vobiscum," especially before blessings (e.g., ashes or palms). There is also no rubric directing the priest to face the people during the Divine Office (at least in Roman sources).

    1. Indeed - but Lutheran rubrical changes in this regard far predate 1955. Just how far, and in just which jurisdictions: to that I must confess ignorance.

      But come, does it not seem odd to say Dominus vobiscum with your back ad eos cum eis dicis? It seems that by 1955 the papal authorities were finally coming to the conclusion that Lutherans had come to some time before (and again: I hope someone reading can point us to where we might find out just when that changed).



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