Monday, April 12, 2010

Weedon on our Lutheran Liturgical Heritage

You might be familiar with the Rev. William Weedon (pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL) from his Bible study in this past December's Lutheran Witness, his many appearances on Issues, Etc., his work with the PALS program, his service with our seminaries as a vicarage and field education supervisor, or his being acknowledged on page 991 as a contributor to our hymnal.

He has served in the holy ministry since graduating from our St. Louis seminary in 1986, and earned a second masters degree from Concordia - St. Louis in 1998. His expertise on liturgical matters was acknowledged in Joseph Herl's treatise Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism (Oxford University Press) - see Dr. Herl's endorsement. Pastor Weedon also edited a new edition of the Starck's Prayer Book published last year by Concordia Publishing House (CPH).

He is also a blogger who always has interesting insights, pastoral sensitivity, and excellent scholarship. I can't recommend his blog enough.

Pastor Weedon recently blogged a few passages from the Lutheran Confessions, from Martin Luther, and from C.F.W. Walther "on the liturgical heritage of Lutheran Christians - the formation of which in these gray and latter days is never an easy task." And he adds: "May these few lines be of some help!"

I believe they are, and here they are:

The Lutheran Confessions on Various Matters of Worship:

Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. The Mass is held among us and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved… Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV:1,2

Because the Mass is for the purpose of giving the Sacrament, we have Communion every holy day, and if anyone desires the Sacrament, we also offer it on other days, when it is given to all who ask for it. Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV:34

We answer that it is lawful for bishops, or pastors, to make ordinances so that things will be done orderly in the church, but not to make satisfaction for sin… It is proper that the churches keep such ordinances for the sake of love and tranquility, to avoid giving offense to another, so that all things be done in the churches in order, and without confusion. Augsburg Confession XXVIII:53-55.

However, it is pleasing to us that, for the sake of peace, universal ceremonies are kept. We also willingly keep the order of the Mass in the churches, the Lord’s Day, and other more famous festival days. With a very grateful mind we include the beneficial and ancient ordinances, especially since they contain a certain discipline. Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Article VII/VIII:33

Masses are celebrated among us every Lord’s Day and on other festivals. The Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other such things. Apology to the Augsburg Confession, XXIV:1

Nothing in customary rites should be changed without a reasonable cause. So to nurture unity, old customs that can be kept without sin or great inconvenience should be kept. Apology to the Augsburg Confession, XV:51

Luther on the Elevation (lifting up the body and blood of the Lord):

We do not want to abolish the elevation, but retain it because it...signifies that Christ has commanded us to remember Him. For just as the sacrament is bodily elevated, and yet Christ's body and blood are not seen in it, so he is also remembered and elevated by the word of the sermon and is confessed and adored in the reception of the Sacrament. In each case, He is apprehended only by faith; for we cannot see how Christ gives His body and blood for us and even now daily shows and offers it before God to obtain grace for us. -- Blessed Martin Luther, *The German Mass* AE 53:82

Luther on Genuflecting during the Creed:

And when the congregation came to the words “from the Virgin Mary, and was made man,” everyone genuflected and removed his hat. It would still be proper and appropriate to kneel at the words “and was made man,” to sing them with long notes as formerly, to listen with happy hearts to the message that the Divine Majesty abased Himself and became like us poor bags of worms, and to thank God for the ineffable mercy and compassion reflected in the incarnation of the Deity. [Luther on John 1:14]

Luther on Kissing the Bible:

It [kneeling before the Sacrament] is a matter of freedom, just as one is at liberty to kiss the Bible or not. -- Table Talk 344

Luther on what was spilled:

[In 1542, in Wittenberg] a woman wanted to go to the Lord’s Supper, and then as she was about to kneel on the bench before the altar and drink, she made a misstep and jostled the chalice of the Lord violently with her mouth, so that some of the Blood of Christ was spilled from it onto her lined jacket and coat and onto the rail of the bench on which she was kneeling. So then when the reverend Doctor Luther, who was standing at a bench opposite, saw this, he quickly ran to the altar (as did also the reverend Doctor Bugenhagen), and together with the curate, with all reverence licked up [the Blood of Christ from the rail] and helped wipe off this spilled Blood of Christ from the woman’s coat, and so on, as well as they could. And Doctor Luther took this catastrophe so seriously that he groaned over it and said, “O, God, help!” and his eyes were full of water. (Johann Hachenburg, quoted in Peters, p. 191)

The Lutheran Confessions on Adoration of the Sacrament:

However, no one - unless he is an Arian heretic - can and will deny that Christ Himself, true God and man, is truly and essentially present in the Supper. Christ should be adored in spirit and in truth in the true use of the Sacrament, as He is in all other places, especially where His congregation is assembled. (FC VII:15)

Walther (Synod’s first President) on Chanting:

It is a pity and dreadful cowardice when a person sacrifices the good ancient church customs to please the deluded American denominations just so they won't accuse us of being Roman Catholic! Indeed! Am I to be afraid of a Methodist, who perverts the saving Word, or be ashamed in the matter of my good cause, and not rather rejoice that they can tell by our ceremonies that I do not belong to them?

It is too bad that such entirely different ceremonies prevail in our Synod, and that no liturgy at all has yet been introduced in many congregations. The prejudice especially against the responsive chanting of pastor and congregations is of course still very great with many people -- this does not, however, alter the fact that it is very foolish. The pious church father Augustine said, "Qui cantat, bis orat--he who sings prays twice."

This finds its application also in the matter of the liturgy. Why should congregations or individuals in the congregation want to retain their prejudices? How foolish that would be! For first of all it is clear from the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 14:16) that the congregations of his time had a similar custom. It has been the custom in the Lutheran Church for 250 years. It creates a solemn impression on the Christian mind when one is reminded by the solemnity of the divine service that one is in the house of God, in childlike love to their heavenly Father, also give expression to their joy in such a lovely manner.

Whenever the divine service once again follows the old Evangelical-Lutheran agendas (or church books), it seems that many raise a great cry that it is "Roman Catholic": "Roman Catholic" when the pastor chants "The Lord be with you" and the congregation responds by chanting "and with thy spirit"; "Roman Catholic" when the pastor chants the collect and the blessing and the people respond with a chanted "Amen." Even the simplest Christian can respond to this outcry: "Prove to me that this chanting is contrary to the Word of God, then I too will call it `Roman Catholic' and have nothing more to do with it. However, you cannot prove this to me."

If you insist upon calling every element in the divine service "Romish" that has been used by the Roman Catholic Church, it must follow that the reading of the Epistle and Gospel is also "Romish." Indeed, it is mischief to sing or preach in church, for the Roman Church has done this also . . .Those who cry out should remember that the Roman Catholic Church possesses every beautiful song of the old orthodox church. The chants and antiphons and responses were brought into the church long before the false teachings of Rome crept in. This Christian Church since the beginning, even in the Old Testament, has derived great joy from chanting... For more than 1700 years orthodox Christians have participated joyfully in the divine service. Should we, today, carry on by saying that such joyful participation is "Roman Catholic"? God forbid! Therefore, as we continue to hold and to restore our wonderful divine services in places where they have been forgotten, let us boldly confess that our worship forms do not tie us with the modern sects or with the church of Rome; rather, they join us to the one, holy Christian Church that is as old as the world and is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”

1 comment:

Daniel said...

The Luther quote on Kissing the Gospel book is revealing. When we do not receive the whole Paradosis (which from an Orthodox perspective includes venerating the Gospel book with a kiss by the clergy reading it), then we end up in a perpetual state of having to rediscover (or more typically recreate) who we are. Lex Scriptura Sola, Lex Orandi Sola.