Thursday, March 12, 2009

veiling the statuary & crucifixes

I dropped into the Chapel of Christ Triumphant the other day. It is the main chapel on the campus of Concordia University Wisconsin, in Mequon, a modernist chapel on a modernist campus. Yet it is an impressive and beautiful chapel nonetheless, equipped as it is with a larger than life crucifix above the high altar, two side altars, confessional booths, and a complete set of the traditional fourteen stations of the cross in statuary form. Unfortunately, unless I am mistaken, the confessionals are used as storage closets, a missed opportunity for the campus pastor to provide pastoral care, that is, to be a campus pastor. Each of the two side altars have upon them, not crucifixes or statues or images of some sort, but a plain brass cross, with an IHS in the middle. The north altar, in fact, is partially blocked by the cords and equipment for what seems to be an amplified musical set up. Yet I have always appreciated the imposing crucifix which commands one's attention from virtually any perspective in the chapel. And most unusual of all for modern Lutherans is the wonderful opportunity and devotional potential we have with the beautiful Way of the Cross along the south and north sides of the chapel.

The Way of the Cross can be prayed on any day of the week, though Friday is particularly appropriate, and it can be prayed in any season of the year, through Lent is particularly appropriate, and within Lent it becomes even more timely as we move toward Passiontide, that is, the last two weeks of Lent. Yet, amazingly, what I found was that the stations of the cross are completely hidden by dark veils. I find it bizarre, unfortunate, and inexplicable that just when the Church most encourages the use of the Way of the Cross, that is, in Lent, it is inaccessible on a major Lutheran university campus.

The idea, one supposes, was that the chapel would observe the traditional practice of veiling the statues during Lent, however, a needed correction is in order. First, it is only in Passiontide that this veiling takes place. That is, the veiling begins with First Vespers of the Fifth Sunday in Lent, and ends prior to the Paschal Vigil on Holy Saturday, the exception being that the altar crucifix is unveiled on Good Friday. Second, the veiling includes all statues, crucifixes, and other images, but specifically excludes the stations of the cross.

Please, Pastor Smith, unveil those stations.

23 comments:

Father Hollywood said...

"Please, Pastor Smith, unveil those stations."

"Mister Gorbachev, tear down that wall!"

I'm sorry, I could not help myself. Great observations, as always, Latif.

gnesio-lutheran said...

Well at least the stations have been left in place. It has been my fear that they would eventually be taken down altogether by the liturgophobic, anti-catholic forces that reign many quarters of our dear synod today.

christl242 said...

Well, I have to say, seeing an avatar of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin on a Lutheran site is interesting, to put it mildly.

As a Lutheran with Lutheran family on my mother's side and Roman Catholic on my father's, I would say that IMHO "traditional" Lutherans are certainly catholic --but not Catholic. The siren song of Rome can be very attractive until heard from the inside out.

gnesio-lutheran said...

To this day, there are historic Lutheran churches in Germany and Scandinavia which retain their pre-
Reformation altars and artwork, many of which feature Marian themes like the Assumption and Coronation of Mary(Creglingen and Rothenburg are two of many examples).
The early Lutheran reformers saw no problem with this type of imagery, and neither do I.

christl242 said...

Oh, I'm so glad you mentioned the Lutheran churches of Germany, where I was born in a charming little Bavarian town to a Lutheran mother and Catholic father (I know both traditions intimately).

Yes, in fact, the Lutheran Andreaskirche where my family attended retained much of the Catholic iconography of its past as did the churches of Rothenburg (which I have seen) and elsewhere.

But none of the Lutheran pastors I knew taught the Catholic dogmas of the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception, purgatory or the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."

And do you REALLY want to identify with the heterodox Lutheran Church of Sweden ??

gnesio-lutheran said...

Since they are not addressed in Scripture these two Marian traditions are merely pious opinons, at best. I certainly am not advocating that pastors teach them as dogma. Remember, the IC and Assumption were not even Roman Catholic dogma until 1854 and 1950 respectively.

But even Luther accepted both of them, and the Assumption was retained on some Lutheran calendars well into the 1600's.

I do not believe in purgatory, nor the Sacrifice of the Mass, at least as it was understood in Luther's day. Please do not paint me with that broad of a brush.

My avatar is merely a reminder that Lutherans, historically, were not afraid of tradtional 'catholic' imagery, even that which depicts the Virgin Mary.

And yes, the CofS is largely heterodox, but I was referring to images that were retained at the time of the Reformation, when the Swedes were more scriptural and confessional.

Past Elder said...

In RC understanding, the IC and the Assumption were always part of Catholic doctrine, the Church does not invent new doctrines, but not formally defined as such until 1854 and 1950.

Further, in RC understanding, the reservation of formal definition was reserved until these times in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, so that in the age of Darwin and Marx, wherein everyone is conceived without sin and a perfect society is an historical inevitablility, the Church could teach more forcefully than ever that only one person was conceived without sin and that perfection is through her Son in heaven.

Imagery that depicts the Virgin is not a generic thing. The crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven is not the same as other beliefs about her. It is the last of the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, three groups of five, ten Aves each, reulting in 150 Ave total in imitation of the Psalter.

Of course now we've got the "Luminous Mysteries" that blows the whole pattern all to hell, but such is post-conciliar Catholicism. We don't need to follow suit with our version of similar things.

gnesio-lutheran said...

While you are correct that the RC's 'claim' not to invent new doctrine, the fact remains that the two Marian dogmas were not formally declared until quite recently. Until that time, a person could be a faithful Roman Catholic and deny both of them. The Immaculate Conception, especially, was hotly debated for centuries, and it is remakable that Luther, following Augustine, was an early supporter. He held it to be a scriptural doctrine, flowing from Gabriel's proclamation that Mary was 'full of grace' and 'the Lord was with her.'
There is a quote somewhere that Luther also acknowleged Mary to be Queen of Heaven, although he of course warned against considering her a goddess. I don't have access to Luther's works right now to cite it exactly. (I am fully aware that Luther said a lot of different things at different times, and every quote from him is not necessarily authoritative for Lutherans today.)
As I stated previously, my little avatar is merely a reminder that many early Lutherans saw no problem with such Marian imagery. In no way do I see a way or reason to re-introduce such things into the average LCMS congregation today, when there are far, far bigger battles to be fought. But personally, I am far less offended by a church statue of the Virgin and Child, than by the wholesale abandonment of confessional Lutheranism and liturgy taking place in many LCMS congregations today.
And like you, I scratch my head at the post-conciliar 're-imagining' of nearly every traditional catholic tradition, often for no conceivable reason but to produce change for its own sake.

Past Elder said...

Well, what they thought they were doing was on the one hand reaching back to a more fully patristic and less counter-reformation way of being, and on the other addressing the world on its current terms rather than those of scholasticism etc.

FWIW I myself do not have a problem with considering Mary the Queen of Heaven. I also do not have a problem with those who give no thought whatever to whether she is the Queen of Heaven.

But re the bigger battles to be fought, confessional Lutherans way too often only see one, namely, what you call the wholesale abandonment of confessional Lutheranism and liturgy.

This abandonment is not only a matter of adapting the look and feel of American evangelicalism and/or the prosperity gospel of white suburbia and their wannabes.

It also happens when we put side by side with the historic liturgy etc of the catholic church our adaptations of the latest from Rome in the post-conciliar novus ordo like other "Protestant" churches with a liturgical tradition have done.

The latter comes with enough funny clothes and smells and bells to look all churchy, but in fact it matters little whether we unofficially abandon our true selves for Willow Creek adaptations or officially abandon our true selves for Roman Vatican II adaptations now common to heterodox churches rather than adhere to catholic tradition.

Neither the Gnesio Lutherans nor the Phillipians produced the BOC.

christl242 said...

It also happens when we put side by side with the historic liturgy etc of the catholic church our adaptations of the latest from Rome in the post-conciliar novus ordo like other "Protestant" churches with a liturgical tradition have done.

Yes indeed. The ELCA, which had its own little "Vatican II for Lutherans" is a prime example of that.

I also have no problem with statues of the Virgin and Child. Along with the crucifixes in my home I have a lovely wood carving of Mary and the Child Jesus. Very much part of the catholic tradition.

Christine

gnesio-lutheran said...

You hit the nail on the head.

I too see no value for confessional Lutherans to mimick what is going on in the Conciliar Church, litugically, theologically, or otherwise. Your point that many heterodox protestant bodies seem willing to dance to their tune is well taken. (In many ways ,the Conciliar Church itself is a heterodox body for that matter.)

Instead, I merely hope for Lutherans to be more faithful to OUR OWN rich tradition, a tradition that includes the first 15 centuries of the Church's existance. I see no problem when our litugical forms, calendar etc. follow the traditonal, rather that post Vatican II, usage.
There is no need to 'be like them. There is a need to be faithful to ourselves, regardless of the current Roman whim.

Past Elder said...

I agree with you actually.

I just hasten to add, "traditional" in RC usage is not "traditional" to us. In the former, it means now the Tridentine Rite, and that as of its last revision in 1962 under a liturgist, Bugnini, who would later superintend the novus ordo.

So, traditional for us is not Trent, which was a specific reaction against us, to correct the problems the Reformers rightly protested yet keep it incorrupt for all time against the doctrinal error into which the Reformers fell.

Nor is the 1962 edition, now the supposed Extraordinary Form in the RCC, exactly "tradition" for them either.

Trent, specifically its Mass of Pius V, was ten years old at the time of the BOC, then the current Roman whim. Roman whims remain Roman whims, even with age. Our reforms look beyond both Vatican II and Trent.

gnesio-lutheran said...

Agreed.
I was not seeking a 'return' to Tridentine Roman usage either, as those in the Traditional Catholic movement seek.

I would consider the 'Traditional' usage for Lutherans to be the pre-Reformation Western rite(granted there are variations even of that), taking into account the reforms of the various Kirchenordungen.

It is interesting to note that even the so-called 'Extraordinary Form' Mass of 1962 has been subjected to more recent Roman whims in actual usage.

(The Coronation Scene displayed in my new avatar is one from the Castle Church in Wittenburg, near Luther's tomb.)

Past Elder said...

We certainly have enough Karlstadts in our own time.

I think our reforms also an encompass the East too. I have had on my blog since it started a link to the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, which uses a Lutheran version of the St John Chrysostom liturgy.

There hasn't been a Vatican II in Eastern Orthodoxy resulting in two liturgies supposedly two forms of the same thing.

Man, can you imagine St John, Gregory or any other of the great liturgists saying OK, here's option A or B for the Kyrie, your choice of Glorias, Eucharistic Prayers, and btw there's two calendars and lectionaries, so have fun you guys!

That sort of horse nonsense is as much a turning from tradition as cutting and pasting from the Willow Creek site.

Past Elder said...

Maybe I should tone it down, out of respect to horses. They have more sense than to do stuff like that.

christl242 said...

The history of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg has evolved in a very interesting direction.

From the church website:

In 1503 the Castle Church was blessed as the Roman Catholic Castle and Foundation Church “All Saints”.

Starting in 1525 Lutheran worship was celebrated in the Castle Church. Today the Castle Church is used for worship, baptisms, weddings and church music events. Each year aproximately 180,000 visitors from around the world visit this memorial of the Reformation.

During the time from Easter Sunday till the first Sunday in Advent we invite you to Worship Service in the Castle Church at 10 a.m.

On the first Sunday of each month we celebrate Holy Communion with wine, on the third Sunday of each month with grape juice.


Grape juice??

Christine

gnesio-lutheran said...

Grape juice??

That is truly bizarre.....

I thought grape juice for Communion was a uniquely American aberration, a product of the Temperance Movement.

And now it's found it's way to Wittenburg. I imagine Luther is spinning in his grave.

Past Elder said...

Now you can all wonder what kind of guy is Past Elder anyway, hyper traditionalist then says something like -- I don't have a problem with grape juice.

It says fruit of the vine. Grape juice is fruit of the vine.

We can say, but of course the fuit of the vine used at Passover is wine, wine was in there, so it must have been wine and therefore we can only use wine.

"Must have beens" are the road to Rome. It says fruit of the vine.

Now if they start using orange juice, then I'll have a problem.

gnesio-lutheran said...

Wine is preferable not only from the standpoint of tradition, but also for hygenic reasons. The alcohol in the wine reacts with the silver in the chalice to produce a natural antiseptic. Grape juice causes no such reaction.

If I had to commune with grape juice, then I would want it in individual glass...

christl242 said...

If I had to commune with grape juice, then I would want it in individual glass...

A perfectly viable solution, actually!

Christine

gnesio-lutheran said...

Grape juice and individual glasses do not impair the validity of the Sacrament.

But do we really want to go there???

christl242 said...

But do we really want to go there???

Personally, I would rather not. In the U.S., at least, it's very much the influence of American Protestantism and doesn't mesh with the sensibility of being an evangelical catholic.

Just my two cents!

Christine

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I must risk offending I guess at least two people here, even though I have appreciated much of what all of you have said, by stating that I would indeed question the validity of a celebration of the Eucharist where grape juice is used instead of grape wine. I have not the time to explicate right now. But the topic merits attention, so perhaps a separate post will soon be in order.