Friday, June 4, 2010

Some Liturgical Clarification

The Reverend Paul McCain has written this blog, which aims to promote a more frequent celebration of the Holy Mass.  Anytime the holy Eucharist is upheld, and its right, faithful, and frequent use promoted in the modern Church, I rejoice.  In the course of doing so, however, he makes some statements which merit development and clarification.

For example, he writes "There is no good reason not to offer the Lord's Supper at every Divine Service in a Lutheran congregation."  Essentially, of course, this sounds good, and I both understand and agree with what I think is its meaning.  Let us, however, slow down and take a closer look at the terminology involved.  The phrase Divine Service, which comes to us from the term gottesdienst, is a reference to the public worship of the Church, the liturgical cultus of the Christian people.  Divine Service takes several forms.  There is, for example, sacramental liturgy.  The chief example of this is the eucharistic liturgy, that is to say, the Holy Mass, as well as the rite of Communion brought to those not at Mass.  The Mass is what in Germanic terminology we properly call the Chief Divine Service, or der Hauptgottesdienst

As I say, besides sacramental liturgy, there are certainly other forms of Divine Service.  Another example is what I would call epenetic liturgy.  The adjective Epenetic derives from the Greek term for "praise," epainos.  Epenetic liturgy is the regular discipline of the Daily Office, also known as the canonical hours.  The modern Roman Rite calls it the Liturgy of the Hours.  Saint Benedict called it The Work of God, or Opus Dei.  The Daily Office is a rich and beautiful form of divine service, designed, when utilized fully, to support the ministry of the Eucharist in the Church, and always to lead the Christian back to the Mass.  The whole of the Christian life flows out of and back to the Mass, and this is reflected in the hierarchy of the Mass over against other forms of liturgy, all of which somehow flow out of and back to the Mass. 

But, some may wonder at this point, isn't it the case that Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book, two popular liturgical books of modern American Lutheranism, use the term Divine Service in reference specifically to their orders of the Mass?  That is true.  Nor do I condemn such usage, though we ought to teach and remind people that when we see that sort of use for the phrase "Divine Service," it is meant as a shorthand for what is not the only form of Divine Service, but is the highest and chief Divine Service of the Church. 

Helpful in this regard is the example of the Blessed Reformer.  Let us briefly examine a few examples of his use of terms.  In 1523 he published his Latin Mass, which he titled, Formula Missae et Communionis Pro Ecclesia Vuittembergensi, that is, The Form of Mass and Communion for the Church of Wittenberg.  Three years later he published his German Mass, which he titled, Deutsche Messe und Ordnung des Gottesdiensts, that is, The German Mass and Order of Divine Service.  As we see in this case, the term Gottesdienst is included, yet as anyone who has read that work knows, it indeed deals with more than merely Luther's program for the Mass, but also his conception of a secular, diocesan Matins and Vespers, especially on Sundays and feasts.

I digress to emphasize that these two Masses of Luther stand, with masses before and Lutheran masses after, in a long tradition, wherein the simple term of choice for the Mass, from time immemorial, is the Mass.  And I hasten to add that there would be great wisdom in the Missouri Synod returning more consistently to this nomenclature, rather than shying away from it, and in many cases impugning it as Romanist

Here we might add that while these two masses were being written and published, we have an excellent example in Luther of Gottesdienst being used for noneucharistic worship.  Namely, in 1523 he published his Von Ordnung Gottesdiensts in der Gemeine, that is, Order of Divine Service in the Congregation, an important and outstanding work, incidentally.

Therefore, if Divine Service is taken as a shorthand for the Mass, ie., the chief Divine Service, which it often is, then the statement quoted above is circular and unnecessary, for every Divine Service in that sense already does have the Eucharist.  And if Divine Service is taken as the public liturgy of the Church in general, then we must say that the statement cannot be supported.  For the Daily Office should be promoted in the Church, and is quite distinct from the celebration of the Lord's Supper.  I dream of and fight for the time when Mass on Sunday in our churches will be accompanied by the morning office.  These two forms of worship are distinct, yet belong side by side in the same Ecclesia orans.

One more clarification.  McCain writes, "I’ve watched for years as my church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, has passed resolution after resolution after resolution at Synod conventions “encouraging” congregations to offer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday to all who are there and desire it. That’s the doctrine and practice of the historic, confessing Lutheran Church, as set forth plainly, clearly and unhesitatingly in our Lutheran Confessions."

The doctrine and practice of the historic, confessing Lutheran Church is not, to be sure, to offer the Lord's Supper to all who are there and desire it.  The Holy Supper, rather, is open to those baptized and believing communicants who have been examined and admitted by the pastor.  It is closed to everyone else.

With these caveats or clarifications in mind, let us, indeed, do all we can to promote the frequent use of the Lord's Supper among us.  At one point, indeed, McCain quotes the Augsburg Confession, to wit, "For Chrysostom reports how the priest stood every day, inviting some to Communion and forbidding others to approach."  This is a happy defense, on McCain's part, of the Daily Mass, which we have at Saint Stephen's in Milwaukee, on the corner of 5th and Scott, right off the freeway, and just a couple blocks from the Allen Bradley Clocktower.  Join us sometime, anytime, for Mass, 9:00 a.m.


Phil said...

When you observe the Daily Office at St. Stephen, does the officiant make use of the altar at all? The current LSB rubrics offer two "options" (as usual), one involving the altar and one led solely from the sedilia and the lectern.

I have thought for a while that the censing of the Altar at the Magnificat, when practiced, provides an opportunity to meditate deeply on the connection of the prayer offices to the Sacrament. I do not remember the other times when the Altar is used according to those rubrics, but each would also seem to be a point of contact between the Office and the Mass, at least when practiced ad orientem.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...


Up till now, I have had very little opportunity to participate in congregational Vespers at St. Stephen's, because of my work. I can tell you that now that we have begun the practice of burning incense at sung Masses, it won't be long before we do so at Vespers as well.

And I like the way you think, in terms of connecting the altar, around which we pray the Office, with the eucharist.

Phil said...

Of late I've come to think that in response to Rome we may have gone too far in shunning sacrificial talk with regard to the Sacrament of the Altar. Certainly it isn't our sacrifice in the Sacrament, but Christ's, and yet our response to Christ's sacrifice is to bring our sacrifices. As a result, we jumped on the Roman bandwagon in turning our altars around and calling them tables (eliminating the sacrificial quality of an altar) and then removing the crucifix from them so that we could see the face of the "presiding minister". (The crucifix belongs even more on a Lutheran altar than a Roman one, because it is the image of the consummated and unrepeatable Sacrifice of Christ.)

Likewise, the Body and Blood are present on the Altar. If one were to reject concomitance (and I'm not clear on what we Lutherans have believed here), Christ's Body and Blood are separate, which only happens when the sacrificial victim is killed, and yet they are always being made present by Christ's will, which could only happen if Christ were alive.

Not all LCMS pastors agree on the practice of Sacramental reservation. However, church architecture and liturgical practice should remind us in each church that the Sacrificed Body and Blood become present and are distributed from that Altar, and not elsewhere.