Friday, January 8, 2010
The 7th Day of January is, as has become known on Facebook, the day on which I was born (the same year in which the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Championship, and the Slovak Lutherans joined the Missouri Synod as the SELC at the Milwaukee Convention).
To you Baby Boomers, I suppose it is the Vigil of the Nativity of Elvis Presley, who was born on 8 January (the same year the U.S. began providing socialized retirement income for seniors with the Social Security Act).
More importantly, I suggest, is that the 7th day of the new year is the second day within the Church's eight day celebration of our Lord's Epiphany.
Also of great interest to Christians everywhere ought to be the fact that on this day the Coptic Church, following the Coptic Calendar, celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. Coptic Christmas is not always on 7 January. It shifts slightly over time. However, for the next several decades it will be on this day. Happy and blessed Christmas, then, to our Coptic brethren.
I haven't had much time to write since New Year's, so this post will seem out of place chronologically. Of course, some also say that such a post is out of place in another sense, namely, one should never criticize, but only show pure loyalty and respect for the synod to which his parish is member. Nevertheless, out of a love for the Church, out of a love for her liturgy, and out of respect for the truth, I dare criticize.
In this case, I have in mind the odd fact that the Missouri Synod's online page listing the feasts of the Church Year would have readers conclude that 31 December is not a day within the Christmas Octave, or the Vigil of the Circumcision of our Lord, or heaven forbid, the feast of Saint Sylvester, but simply New Year's Eve. Really? On 31 December there is really no substantial difference on the calendar between the Liturgical Year and the calendar you might get from your local bank?
To make such an observation is to leave oneself open to the ignorant claim that I am "majoring in minors." My point, rather, in pointing this out is manifold. As an ostensibly world class Confessional Lutheran church body, the Missouri Synod ought to be more intentionally serious about its liturgical resources. It ought to have more respect for the liturgical tradition of the Church. It ought to be more vigilant about maintaining a distinct wall between the popular culture and the Divini cultus, which is not to say that our preaching should not address what is happening in the world and in the lives of the people.
One of the reasons the sloppiness of the web page I cite above does not bode well for our Church is that there are students, not a few that I have come across, who routinely do their research for theology papers or tests by means of looking up the LCMS web resources, such as the Synod's FAQs, and its liturgical pages. I am not sure how one could call such a method research, but it is being done, mostly at the undergraduate level. I have even seen first year seminarians do this. It should not be surprising if one day a decade from now a preacher proclaims to his hearers on 31 December that it is New Year's Eve in the Church Year.
If we are going to move away from insisting that our pastors are formed for ministry in a real praying seminary community, then we should be all the more attentive to the truthfulness and depth of resources offered in our literature, and on our web pages.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Okay, after three posts in a row related to the general topic of modesty, allow me to change the subject, and throw in a quick liturgical reflection tonight. Eye witness reports tell me that at the chapel service on the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord at one of the Concordia University campuses, the "campus pastor" emphasized that it was simultaneously Epiphany and the twelfth day of Christmas. Is this what the Concordia system produces? This is hardly the same as heresy. It is important, however, for when a preacher utters such foolish notions, it makes it difficult for his hearers to respect the rest of his preaching. The university chapel ought to be the setting for exemplary preaching, where the Gospel is preached powerfully, and where truth and scholarship are not checked at the door.
To be clear, the twelve days of Christmas begin with 25 December, i.e, the first day of Christmas, and continue through the Christmas Octave, i.e., 1 January, through to the day before the Feast of the Epiphany. In this way, we see clearly the distinction between Christmastide and Epiphanytide. What Shakespeare called Twelfth Night (which was, by the way, set in Illyria, the ancient land of the Albanians), is the Vigil of the Epiphany, i.e., the 5th of January. The 6th of January is the first day after the Christmas season, not the twelfth or any other day of Christmas. It is, rather, the Feast of the Epiphany, and therefore the first day of the Epiphany Octave, an octave which concludes with the Baptism of our Lord.
Often, especially in our modern culture, even otherwise well-taught Christians will engage in behavior which they reason is for a good cause, but which would have been unthinkable in an earlier age. For example, in a misplaced effort to help promote the fight against breast cancer, many on this day are advertising the color of the undergarment they are wearing. While failing to see the oncological benefit of such a practice, I do see it as a betrayal of the lost virtue of modesty. Maybe there was good reason this would have been unthinkable in our grandmother's generation. I offer these words as food for thought, that's all.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
What happened to embarrassment? It has been the victim of an all out assault by the Feminist Movement, not only in the culture generally, but also in the educational system of our nation. For example, the sex education curriculum has, for a good couple decades now, been striving to obliterate natural and healthy embarrassment, by exposing our young people to facts and images from which they ought to be protected. Sex ed. teachers can even be found explicitly telling our young students, in fact, that "there is nothing to be embarrassed about."
This is one of the deep problems with the thinking of our modern Western culture. And it is a mode of thinking that needs to be taken on with all our resources.
Another thought worth pointing out, though, is that there is an irony at work in this attack on embarrassment. Namely, while our children, especially our girls, are taught in so many ways that they must not be embarrassed about sex, all for the sake of healthy enlightenment, embarrassment has not really been removed; rather, it has been moved. It has been taken from where it should be to places where it is unnatural and nonsensical.
For example, one is embarrassed to utter the word "nigger" today, no matter for what use, or in what context. Even, for example, in a blog discussion or a radio discussion on this very topic, the proper thing, in today's thinking, would be for a writer to write, "the 'N' word," instead of "nigger." What is the fate of great literature in this climate? Are children taught Mark Twain anymore? I don't know, but it makes me wonder. Such semantic idiocy, amounts not to a real fight against bigotry and racism, but a culturally and intellectually retarded generation.
The modern secularistic world is incapable of advising us on those things about which we really ought to be embarrassed. Here the Church can and ought to be an example, and teach true modesty in those areas of life where it is healthy and appropriate, and teach boldness and exploration in those areas of life where this is healthy and appropriate, according to one's vocation. This can happen in the pulpit, and in the home. In fact, it must, if we are to counteract what is happening in the classroom, and in the entertainment industry.
My sister Bedull's birthday and mine are a day apart, mine being the second day within the Epiphany Octave, hers being the third day within the Epiphany Octave. This year we will celebrate together by ice skating on Saturday at Red Arrow Park, downtown Milwaukee. All are welcome to join us. It will be my first time in ice skates. I've been wanting to do this for a while. We'll see how long I survive out there. There is a Starbucks right next to the rink, so if anyone feels like joining us, but is not that into skating, they can stay warm in the coffeehouse with a hot drink, and some bakery, and watch others make fools of themselves.
Place: Red Arrow Park, Downtown Milwaukee (on Water Street, right across from the Marcus center for the Performing Arts)
Day: Saturday, 9 January, 2010
Time: Begin at 4 o'clock, post meridiem, and end at an undetermined time
Cost: skate rental is $6 if you don't have your own; Starbucks will also be happy to sell you some coffee or bakery
Join us Downtown!
P.S. I found some nice images of Red Arrow Park online, but have not yet received permission to post them. Follow these links, however, for a taste of the scene: