Friday, January 8, 2010

New Year's Eve & the Liturgical Year

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.


gnesio-lutheran said...

Yes, I was a little disappointed that St. Silvester was not remembered, at least as a "Commemoration". In some old German Lutheran congregations, New Year's Eve is still sometimes called Silvester's Eve.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Dear Gnesio-lutheran:
Even the excellent little volume of daily Luther readings, Day By Day We Magnify Thee, published by Fortress Press, lists 31 Dec as Saint Sylvester's Day. I'm going on memory here because my copy was lost in our fire a few yrs ago. There was a time when John Pless actively promoted that book.

Tim said...

T'is sad indeed. Now, I wouldn't blame the average person for not knowing every day in the Church Year. However, I would expect a church body to have them listed down.