Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ringing bells is "too Catholic"

So says a guy about Pastor Weedon and his historic LCMS congregation in Illinois that has (gasp!) church bells.

Note Pastor Weedon's fine retort which quotes C.F.W. Walther, the LCMS's first president, who likewise (along with the rest of the Missouri Synod) had to deal with the tiresome "too Catholic" charge.

There really is nothing new under the sun.

Come to think of it, just about every Christian denomination has church bells. Sigh.

Goodness! Next thing you know, people will be claiming that we Lutherans ought to stop folding our hands in prayer or having an organ in our churches because other denominations do that. When people cite such things, they only prove that they really don't know what the Reformation was all about.

It was not about bells.

As Pastor Esget's new favorite Christmas crooner sang, ring them bells!


Ted Badje said...

The bell rang by some Catholic churches during when the words of consecration are spoken always seem to smack of magic to me rather than the solemn moment of when Christ's real presence comes to the elements through the Word. I was married to a Catholic, and they did not have the bell ringing, except at Easter. I wonder how Catholic churches handle this now, since the Pope is more Tridentine in his worldview.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

I thought his point was not that bells were too Catholic but that Pr. Weedon was quoting the Pope in an approving fashion. As far as what the Pope said, even a broken clock can be right twice a day. :)

jfrantz3 said...

Don't you know. Some congregations have already done away with organs. And it's not fold your hands. It's raise them when that praise band plays, so you can catch something. I thought I was at the wrong Southeastern District Convention when the guy at my table started swinging his arms back and forth to the praise band music, if you can call it music. I ended up leaving the Eucharist because that noise band started playing just before the Old Testament reading. I thought this "catter walling" gal was trying out for 'American Idol'!

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Dear Ted:
At my Lutheran church the sanctus bells are rung after the Preface, and then at the elevation of the Body of Christ, and again at the elevation of the Blood of Christ. It makes no sense at all to say this smacks of magic. Your problem is one of perspective. That is, you are viewing a practice that is foreign to your custom, and inferring some motivation for it based on how it feels to you. But there is in fact a break down between what the practice implies and what you are inferring from it. In other words, your inference is false, and amounts to not only bad logic, but also a violation of the eighth commandment.

Dear "Dan":
Your comment about Pope Benedict being as right as a broken clock is about as idiotic a thing to say about a great theologian as can be imagined. It calls into question whether you have read any of his books at all. It is not a sin to not read his books (though for theologians it is close to one). But it is ridiculous to make claims of a man which in effect fail to see any substantial difference between him and Pope Paul III.

SKPeterson said...

And the good deacon comes out swinging!

8th C and all, I don't think Dan was commenting over harshly upon the theology of Bp. Ratzinger, but rather offering a humble acknowledgment that EVEN ROME occasionally gets a few things right that we Lutherans can agree with. Note the ":)" he appended.

But, come now, Deacon. Are you saying there may be a valid basis for a more active, robust LCMS-RCC theological dialog?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Ted:

Being a former Baptist, I know where you're coming from about the "magic" thing. They say the same thing about our belief in the Real Presence (mocked by a distortion of our Lord's Words in Latin: "hoc est corpus meum" which was called "hocus pocus").

Some have objected to the Lutheran custom (as seen in our hymnal rubrics) of making the sign of the cross over the elements twice during the consecration.

My congregation rings the bells three times during the Lord's Prayer (which is, of course, part of the consecration). The Roman Catholic lady next door said she always listens for them on Sunday morning.

I used to belong to a Lutheran church as a layman, and it drove me nuts when, during the moment of the consecration, the little girl altar boys were chitter-chattering ten feet away in plain view and hearing of the congregation. They were never corrected for this. To me, it was a clear confession of what they think is happening at the altar - nothing of importance - which is a Neo-Evangelical confession of Holy Communion.

If we truly confess with Luther and our confessions (quoting Augustine) that when the Word meets the element we have a sacrament (a mystery), and that Jesus is literally, bodily, and truly present by virtue of that consecration, than the hymn's invitation: "Let all mortal flesh keep silent" would seem appropriate.

Bells call our attention to something (which is why telephones were equipped with them). Sirens on police cars and ambulances do the same. Bells are an auditory call to worship - just as when they are rung at the beginning of the service.

And when would such a call to worship be more appropriate than at the consecration when Jesus is physically and miraculously present?

Thanks for your comments!

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Dear SK, and Dan:
It is certainly possible that I misread you, Dan. Even to say "even Rome gets a few things right" seems unfair and condescending to me. But let us have Dan himself explain his words. I sometimes miss the emoticons, or anyway I may miss the writer's true intention for them. So an explanation with actual words would be most helpful.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I want to go a step further now, and say that it was indeed too harsh for me to use terms like idiotic. I'm sorry about that. Let me try to explain my criticism of Dan's broken clock comment. Whether it is some sort of joke, or a serious cutting down of the Pope, I fail to see it coming across right in open and serious dialog. Imagine, for example, if a Catholic man of good will were to check out this conversation. What would he think, even should he catch the smiling emoticon? He would think the Lutherans are up to the same typical anticatholicism that one can get plenty of on the fundy blogs. Fr. Weedon made the point at his blog that we ought to read Ratzinger's works, and then have a real discussion of them. I think that is the best proposal.

Father Hollywood said...

I do think Dan was making an innocent quip about "Even Rome gets a few things right" in the spirit of LSU fans making fun of Alabama (as if anyone can imagine such a thing now...).

But there is a sense among some Lutherans to treat Roman Catholics as cult members and Satan worshipers - which is a tacit denial of our own creeds and confessions. Our Lutheran confessions praise several Roman popes as brilliant theologians, and Gregory the Great's writings are still used in Lutheran seminaries as a classic text on pastoral care and theology.

We certainly accept Roman Catholic, Easter Orthodox, and Protestant baptisms (and even ordinations) in our churches, and have never denied that Rome and Constantinople have the true body and blood of Christ in their Eucharists.

In spite of the frustrating differences and false doctrines that we find in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, I do take great comfort in the "One" part of our creed, and also in knowing that in the vast majority of doctrines of the Church, there is unanimity across the historic Roman, Eastern, and Protestant divide - especially as articulated in the Nicene Symbol.

You will find outstanding Christian theologians and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ - as well as saints whose examples we are implored by our own confessions to follow - in every communion of the one Church.

SKPeterson said...

Fr. Hollywood/Br. Gaba -

I'm not familiar with Ratzinger's approach to theology or the historical arc of his theology. Does he come out of a particular, identifiable tradition, i.e. for Luther we have Paul -> Augustine -> Ockham (sort of, based on Kolb and Arand) -> Luther, by way of simple shorthand.

If you are familiar with Randall Collins' "The Sociology of Philosophies", I would love to see a more in-depth sociology of theologies indicating the connections between theologians and various "schools" both as inheritors and competitors.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

I will explain for the Deacon. SKPeterson and Father Hollywood are correct in that I was making an innocent quip...although for Father Hollywood the appropriate colleges are OSU and Michigan... (another innocent quip)

A follow-up post on Jackson's blog does make an interesting point. If our citations of a particular person have a high frequency of approval, there might be an implication that we would approve of everything someone says.

As my facebook status said recently, "Give me a single blog page, and I can misconstrue something about the author." It is a rare thing when both participants of an argument can debate an issue without impugning one of the parties.

Where and when the Roman Catholic church agrees with Scripture, it is right. Ditto, the church of the Reformation.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Let me amend: "the churches of the Reformation". Adopting the Book of Concord style. :)

Anonymous said...

The bell rang by some Catholic churches during when the words of consecration are spoken always seem to smack of magic to me rather than the solemn moment of when Christ's real presence comes to the elements through the Word.

Actually, Ted, that came about in the huge Gothic churches of Europe where parishioners were often too far away from the chancel to see what was going on before the altar. The ringing of the bells drew attention to the moment of consecration.

Many Catholic parishes no longer practice it since most of the folks in the pews can see what is going on at the altar.

The bells have a long pedigree and I really have no objection to their being used by Catholics and others.


Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

As I say, I totally accept that it was a quip; I only cordially challenge you to consider how innocent a quip it was, despite your intentions. Having said that, I'm glad we're cleared it up.

Ted Badje said...

I am very sorry to have offended anyone's sensibilities. I did not wish to make any inferrals. I view the communion of our Roman Catholic and Orthodox brothers to be valid.

On an another topic, from Pastor Beane's comments, hopefully we can encourage pastors to give a talk to parents, youth about acolyte duties. This should be in the bulletins or in pastoral announcements.

1) Encourage more guys to be acolytes. There is nothing effeminate about honoring the altar. Real men love and honor Jesus.

2. Talking and other irreverent behavior is not to be tolerated.

3. Please wear shirts/slacks or dresses when performing acolyte duty.

4. Do not chew gum while being an acolyte. This drives me to no end of distaction.

Have a safe, healthy New Year.

Dixie said...

Totally off topic from the post but to address Ted's last comment...my husband and I have been talking about the acolyte situation at his Lutheran church. Apparently they can't get any of the kids to acolyte (in a congregation of over 350 members!). In the past they required this of the confirmation class but they don't have any children of that age at this time.

Personally I think the men ought to man up in these situations...be a role model. Teach the children that acolyting is not a kid's job. In my parish we have a 40 year old and a 60 year old altar servers--none of the kids there think altar service is just for kids and even in our tiny parish we have no difficulties getting younger (male only) servers. And...the adult servers are there to teach the little ones proper dress, behavior, etc.

Jonathan said...

Why needs there be only male acolytes?

Dixie said...

Sorry Jonathan, I wasn't clear. In my situation I am Orthodox and we only allow males in the altar (behind the iconostasis)...and my point was in our small parish and only being allowed to have males at the altar we can still fill the roles needed. I think that is because it is not perceived as a kids job.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jonathan:

I prefer the acolytes to be male. And here's why:

The role of acolyte is a wonderful way for a young man to see that wearing an alb (or cassock and surplice) and serving at the altar, following the rubrics, and reverently assisting the celebrant is indeed a manly thing. In fact, it can give a young man an appreciation for serving the Lord's people, wearing vestments, being near the altar, etc. It is a great way to encourage young men to possibly consider being a pastor.

I think having girls and women wear albs and cinctures has been a bad idea. Those are masculine vestments that are being "unisexed" (if not "feminized") by having girls wear them.

I guarantee you that if boys see girls wearing albs and cinctures, they will consider the whole thing to be effeminate, and fewer will want to do it. And that does not serve the long-term goal of getting young men interested in serving the Lord in the ministry.

Of course, having girls dress in clerical garb might give them the idea that they could one day serve as a pastor.

Past Elder said...

For cat's sake.

Ringing bells at mass was not made part of the obligatory rubrics until the Tridentine Rite.

Listening to non Catholics discuss Catholic usages is a hoot sometimes.

The canon of the mass is spoken in a near inaudible tone historically, not to mention in a language fewer and fewer people understood as time went on, plus with the coming of larger churches many people not only could not hear the words but also not see the action, hence the bell. Add a little something about a joyful noise unto the Lord and you're there.

You know what? Had they had the technology then, they'd have put in sound systems with large screens to overcome the triple barriers of volume, language and distance. But they only had bells.

Which is not in the least to argue against their use at all, just to not cover it over with sentimental theological sugar. They are a fine way to express what happens through the power of God's Word and promise when it meets the elements. And the fact that even the RCC doesn't do it that much anymore speaks all the better for it. Would we would avoid all of their novus ordo novelties.

Past Elder said...

Oh, and as to clocks, if it's a digital one set to 24 hour time, it's only right once a day.

Maybe we could switch to even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. Some of the acorns are still there in the RCC, but the squirrels are blind as bats. I'm grateful they still have some acorns, but I sure as hell don't have to share the blindness to get them. I shared it for long ebloodynough.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

That's a fine argument to replace candles with better technology - maybe multicolored LEDs or a laser show. We could also get rid of the stained glass windows and swap them out for flat screens where we can put on YouTube videos. And maybe ditch the organ in favor of, oh, I don;t know, maybe drums and guitars? Why hasn't anyone thought of that? ;-)

And the hymnbook! Judas Priest, give everybody an iPod. Or better yet, just tweet the next line from the song onto the big screen. And how about handing out those little buzzy things you get at Applebees - so people can wander around until it's time to go up for communion?

And PE, just who are you calling Non-Catholic? There are no Non-Catholics in heaven (see the Athanasian Creed). ;-)

The bottom line is that bells are an adiaphoron. Anyone who uses their use to claim this is evidence of a pastor's disloyalty to our confessions or to claim that this somehow calls into question a Lutheran church's credentials 1) is in dire need of repentance, and 2) is clueless about what the Reformation was all about.

In the current age of the world's skepticism and the (American) church's Protestantism, I'm in favor of any reverent way of confessing just what is on our altar after the consecration. Frankly, I've heard enough Lutheran consecrations to know that in general we do a lousy job of making sure everyone knows that we do not believe the bread and wine to be symbolic. Some of our pastors are so casual about the whole thing, you can only hope they really believe what they are saying.

For crying out loud, Jesus is physically present! Ringing a bell to announce it just doesn't seem unreasonable to me - and whether or not Roman Catholics did it (or not) before Trent (or not) or what Vatican II has to say about it (or not) is utterly irrelevant to me.

Ring them bells, confess the Lord's presence before the church and the world, and watch Satan squirm!

Past Elder said...

Hey, I agree with you!

What I said was "not in the least to argue against their use at all," and my opinion is "They are a fine way to express what happens through the power of God's Word and promise when it meets the elements."

And I completely agree to make their use a sign of disloyalty to our Confessions etc ought to read the bleeding book. I'm just against the sugar pro or con.

Matter of fact, if I'm ever in Gretna LA and you need a bell ringer at mass, I'd be happy to suit up. Rang a three bell ringer during my preconciliar days as an RCC altar boy, and would see nothing un-Lutheran at all doing same at mass celebrated according to the institution of Christ with nothing contradicting Scripture. I'm pretty good with a clapper too during the appropriate times, which has a meaning in those times of a piece with the bells at other times.

Finally, how sweet it is to read "Judas Priest" in posts other than my own!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

"Hey, I agree with you!"

I know, that's why I can mess with you. But my use of "Judas Priest" is nowhere near as colorful as yours. :-)

In Gretna, we ring the toller in the bell tower three times during the Lord's Prayer. It is done with a switch near the organ in the choir loft. The hard part is for the elder to shut off the bells, run down the stairs, and get to the altar in time for the distribution. DS3 keeps these guys' blood moving.

If you're up for being the Quasimodo of Gretna, hop on the City of New Orleans and get down here. You are welcome any time!

Other than that, the only other bells we hear is the occasional cell phone in the sanctuary - and it really is never Jesus calling.

Past Elder said...

If you're still up this bloody late I hope you're listening to some Blues!

Past Elder said...

Did you hear what happened at the last conclave? A staffer kept pounding on the door hollering "Jesus is on the phone, Jesus on the phone, holy crap this is terrible!"

The senior cardinal deacon hollered back "No S*&#, but what's so terrible about that?"

The staffer said "It's long distance from Salt Lake City.

There's my contribution to "too Catholic", a little joke from former days.

Anonymous said...

maybe multicolored LEDs or a laser show.

Yikes, that reminds me of one parish where I attended Mass on Christmas Eve. From my Lutheran days I was used to seeing Christmas trees decorated with gold and white ornaments and those wonderful Chrismons featuring Christian symbols that so many Lutheran churches use.

Well -- the tree at this parish had some kind of "laser" lights that flashed and whirled -- I almost fell out of my pew.

Fortunately, that was a one-time event. Most of the RC parishes I attended had trees that were decorated in a more sober fashion.

As for female acolytes, that's another thing I couldn't get used to as a Catholic, and I agree it "feminizes" service at the altar.

I saw a sad report in the Irish Times this morning that in one or two decades the priesthood is expected to disappear in Ireland.


Past Elder said...

Wow, the church did to itself what the English occupation couldn't. That's some renewal for you!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the church did to itself what the English occupation couldn't. That's some renewal for you!

Yes, not exactly what the architects of Vatican II had in mind, is it?