Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blessed Childermas

I wish you a blessed Childermas, and hope you have a chance to attend Mass, or at least to take a moment and remember the witness of the Holy Innocents in your prayer and meditation.  Above is the slaughter as interpreted by Peter Paul Rubens.

Monday, December 26, 2011

the octave drenched in blood

The most important feasts of the Church Year are celebrated for a full octave of days, each day of which is treated as though it were a sort of replay of the first.  Or to put it another way, each day of the octave is a celebrating of the same feast.  Much as a wedding feast in the ancient middle east could last several days, so also the Church on certain occasions celebrates the life of her Lord and Redeemer, and the marital life she shares with Him, as a full eight day feast, the number of the fulfillment of the new creation, the resurrection life which we have in our Baptism (which assumes and is never separated from the Paschal mystery of the death of our Lord, into which we are baptized). 

Yet the feast of the Nativity of Christ is unusual in that it does not take an unmitigated tone of joy, but is significantly filled with death, mortality, even violent martyrdom.  It is called the bloody octave, for in its course we celebrate the victory of many holy martyrs, as we begin to see even today on the second day of Christmas.  There is Stephen, whose holy diaconal witness to Christ, even at the cost of his life, is described by the Evangelist in downright Christic terms.  Then we have the feast of the beloved disciple, who may or may not have died in bloody martyrdom, but whose whole life and episcopal ministry was a martyrdom for his beloved Lord.  Then we have Childermas, on which we remember the heavenly reward of the children who suffered at the hands of a self-absorbed despot.  After that, we get to celebrate the twelfth century witness of the holy bishop of Canterbury, Thomas à Becket, a man whose life, at once human and holy, and whose violent murder at the hands of men who despised both the Work of God (the Liturgy-in this case, Vespers) and the workers of God (in this case, the bishop) cannot help but move the Christian even eight centuries later.  Two days after that we get the feast of St. Sylvester, who did not die a martyr in the classic sense, but much of whose life saw great persecutions of the Church in the days before its toleration with the Edict of Milan.  And the Octave culminates in the observance of the first blood spilled for our redemption (for Mary shed none herself at the birth of her Son) namely, that of our Lord Himself at His circumcision.

It is a hard road that Jesus came to earth to travel, a hard and lonely way.  For ultimately it is the way of the Cross.  And His life, death. and resurrection (these things are really a singular Paschal mystery) is lived out in the lives of His members, even today.  Our way, too, is the way of the cross, and ours is His victory.  We are walking examples of the reality that Christ makes all things new, whether or not we feel it.  For our lives are now patterned after Him, the New Man Who daily comes forth and rises in our life and confession and witness, no matter what end we might meet.  The life of Christ is also the story of the life of His mystical Body, and each member thereof.  Let this ocvate serve in part to help you meditate upon this truth in Christ.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

the Christmas Eve Service

Last night we had a Christmas Eve Service at Luther Memorial.  It was very nice.  There were hymns, readings, more hymns, more readings, and some good preaching.  I was a bit disappointed when I sat down and then looked up at the altar, and didn't see a chalice veil there.  I was sort of expecting the Mass.  But it's really no one's fault but mine for this surprise, and disappointment.  Nowhere in the church literature did it claim Christmas Eve would be a Eucharist.  What it said in the schedule, looking back, was "Christmas Eve Service" and I let it get into my head that it would be the Mass.  When you think about it, that phrase Christmas Eve Service is really just shy of one word that would have signified, in modern LC-MS parlance, that there would be the Eucharist, namely, Christmas Divine Service.  You see where I'm driving?  My mind probably saw "Christmas Eve Service" and read into it "Christmas Eve Divine Service." 

Again, I don't blame anyone at Luther Memorial.  However, this all points to a couple of notions.  One is that it would have been more clear and explicit if the schedule would have said something like, "Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols."  But another thought regards the ambiguity of the term Divine Service. The phrase Divine Service, as I say, has come to mean in modern LC-MS parlance the Holy Mass. I suppose this started with Lutheran Worship's use of the term for its Mass orders back in the 1980s. In fact, however, it is worth pointing out that Divine Service does not imply the Mass. It implies public worship. It would be more accurate to say something like Chief Divine Service if you wanted to signify the use of the Holy Mass, which of course begins to beg the question of why we think we must always add more words to make something clearer.

There is another solution.  Namely, there is a certain practical genius in the practice of using the word "Mass."  For in that case there would have been no mistake.  That is, one look at the church's schedule would tell you that one any given occasion you will either have the Mass, or you won't. 

On another note, if modern Roman Catholic practice undervalues and under-utilizes noneucharistic aspects of the Church's liturgical tradition, like the Divine Office, modern Lutheran practice undervalues the Mass, and under-utilizes the Church Year's opportunities for celebrating the Mass.  This is just the way it is.  Many of my friends prefer to look at the glass being half full, and speak of how things have improved, etc.  I don't deny that, but I also see it getting worse.  How can both be true?  I don't know, but it should alarm us.  I think modern Missouri has become a "big tent" and you can see in it whatever you want to see.  It's like a Rorschach test.  But the test doesn't determine whether one is an optimist or a pessimist, like some claim.  Rather, it determines what it is on which you are choosing to focus, and maybe whether you are being a realist or a positivist.

None of this is to deny, mind you, that I'm better off now than I was with the incompetence and false teaching at a former church.  However, I can't go through life merely contenting myself with the thought that, at least this isn't as bad as that over there.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

merry christmas

Milad Majid

Joyeux Noël

Gëzuar Krishtlindjet

Feliz Navidad

Gaudete! Christus natus est.

Christmas Tree with Dorian

This is our Christmas tree.  In years past we used artificial trees, since a real one would not have coexisted very well with our cats.  Oddly, they had a habit of attacking the tree anyway.  This year I decided to try a real one.  I felt I knew Dorian well enough by now to know that he wouldn't be too freaked out by a real tree.  So a few days ago I went to a Christmas tree lot downtown with my friend Mike.  We went to the lot on Van Buren & Kilbourn, across from the cathedral.  The guy didn't have many trees left; I told him I was interested in a small one, one that would fit a small apartment.  He showed me the smallest one he had left, and it too was bigger than what I wanted.  So he offered to cut off a portion and give me a deal on the price.  I said, cool, and he pulled out a chainsaw, and cut off a whole section from the bottom, and even tied the tree to the top of the car for me.  Very helpful and friendly man. 

I am really loving this tree.  I love the scent it gives the place, and I love the way it looks, with all of Ruth's decorations (some of which are her own origami ornaments).  Ruth has been feeding it water every day or so, and Dorian loves to lay right behind it.  I suppose he thinks he is in his own forest, or perhaps just a garden.  I think we'll do the same next year.

a Christmas Song from the Holy Land

An Arabic-Syriac Christmas song.

Bruce Springsteen 'Merry Christmas Baby'

Eucharistic Implications of the O Antiphons

The liturgy is filled with implications that we too often fail fully to appreciate.  So it is worth meditating upon the liturgy of the Church, and praying that we may gain a fuller view of what it is teaching us.  Through the Church's liturgical tradition, there is always more that God would show us of His wondrous love for us in Christ.  Let us recall that while the liturgy as such is not divinely inspired, it is filled with God's creative Word.  And so Saint Benedict calls it the Work of God.  It is fitting to pray, in other words, that God would open our eyes, that we may see the wondrous things in the liturgy (Ps 119).

And so one thought that strikes me lately is in regard to the increased popularity in recent years of the O Antiphons, that is, the proper Magnificat antiphons for the seven days that lead up to the holy Vigil of Christmas.  It is a fine custom to celebrate the Divine Office of Vespers, and to use these venerable antiphons; yet it is valuable to consider what the Divine Office, and in this case particularly the O Antiphons, might be assuming about our liturgical life.  What is assumed in the Divine Office, including the O Antiphons, and indeed is an essential key to fully appreciating the Office, and the Antiphons, is the regular celebration of the Holy Eucharist. 

In the final week before Christmas Eve, the Church focuses more intently on preparing for the coming celebration of the birth of the Theanthropos, the God-man, and does so, for example, by praying for His advent among us in the Magnificat antiphons, each one calling Him by a different name, and crying out for His presence.  Veni, Come.  Christ's coming in the world is always an intersecting of this world and the cosmic reality wherein Christ holds all of creation, and all of history, in His hand.  Interestingly, we have come to view the final coming of Christ as a parousia, which connotes for many a glorious coming of Christ on the last day, but really it would be better to convert our thinking around, and see that in fact every coming of Christ is a parousia, a making Himself personally present in this world, which is a gracious and comforting presence for those buried by baptism into His death, and fearfully damning to those not ready for it.  He comes to judge, but for the Christian covered by the blood of the Lamb that judgement is a gracious sentence.  He came into the world about two millennia ago, assuming our human nature, and became man.  He will also come again in glory at the close of this world.  However, there is another coming of Christ.  Namely, His coming, in the flesh, in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, in which the Christian is united with Him sacramentally.  This also is Christ's Parousia among us.  This, the celebration of the venerable Eucharist, is the fulfillment among us, in real time, of the prophecy that Christ is Emmanuel, God with us.  Indeed, the seventh of the O Antiphons calls upon Christ as Emmanuel. 

It is well worth meditating upon the O Antiphons in detail, but it is also worth stepping back, and gaining an appreciation for what we are confessing in them when viewed together.  This comes out more clearly when they are read in the Latin.  For there we see that the O Antiphons are designed in such a way so that the first letter (after the O) of each antiphon is part of an acrostic, read backwards, which spells Ero Cras, Tomorrow I shall come.  Admittedly, for those who follow the English medieval custom of adding an eighth antiphon in honor of the Virgin Mary, the acrostic will spell Vero Cras, Truly tomorrow, which is only slightly different.  What is this but a confession that on Christmas, which is fast upon us, the Church celebrates the solemn and joyful mystery of the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ among us.  All that we ask for in the O Antiphons comes about in the celebration of the Christmas Mass.  Christ, our Wisdom incarnate, comes to teach us what we need to know of Him.  Christ, the Adonai, comes to us, that is, our Redemption draws near, the One Who saves us by stretching out His arms on the cross and bringing the fruit of His suffering to us.  Christ, the Root of Jesse, Who has become for us the tree of life, comes to deliver us.  Christ, the Key of David, comes in apocalyptic authority, and opens the kingdom of heaven to us right here and now.  Christ, the Dayspring, comes and enlightens the darkness of our hearts with His good gifts.  Christ, the King, comes to bring salvation to us.  And indeed, Christ, our Emmanuel, proves Himself to be God Who is there for us.  He is with us.  All of this is fulfilled in the Holy Mass, where we hear our Shepherd's voice, and are united with Him personally in the most venerable Eucharist. 

There are Lutheran churches that confess these things, with the revival of the O Antiphons, and yet will not have the Sacrament on Christmas because it falls on a non-communion Sunday.  The praying of the O Antiphons, like the praying of the Divine Office in general, assumes and can only be fully appreciated in light of the regular and frequent celebration of the Holy Mass.  We implore Christ to come to us.  And this is not a hopeless cry, but a cry of faith, for all the while we are also confessing that He will come to us.  And then He does.  Let us not make of the liturgy a lie, but a confession of the true vitality of the sacramental life of our church.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lulu coupon for Dec 21st

If you buy a book today at, you can get a second one at 50% off by using this code at checkout:


Shortning Bread on three harmonicas

The other night I saw Lil Rev, Steve Cohen, and Jim Liban down the block at Linnemans.  A great show, as one might imagine.  Here is a little taste.  (This particular video is from the show they did a few months ago, which was also a great show.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

santa cycle rampage

If you were out and about in the city on Saturday, you too may have seen the army of Santas on their bicycles.  It's at the same time one of the many expressions of Milwaukee's bicyle culture and one of the many signs that you are in Milwaukee at Christmas time.  Admittedly, the Santa Cycle Rampage can be found in other cities as well.  But this one is surely the best, and I say that for two reasons. 1. The people involved are the Milwaukeeest people of all the Santa Cycle Rampages.  And 2. the Santa riders are riding through Milwaukee, which, let's face it, is hands down the Milwaukeeest place of all.  So there's just no comparison.  Convinced yet?
Check this link for one writer's take on the event, along with some great pictures.  And while you're at it, take note of the picture of the beer hall at my brewery.

And here is a video of the santa cycle ride from a couple of years ago:

God is born

A now famous video by an imam, in which he decries Christmas as the observance of God being born on December 25th, has been well attacked and picked apart in the Christian blog world.  I'd like to respond to what one person said over at bureaucrat Paul McCain's blog.  (McCain and I have similar policies about allowing each other to participate in our blogs; nevertheless, sometimes I see something there that is worthy of discussion here.)  The comment first proclaimed that the Imam is wrong, and at that point I thought, okay, he's going to point out that Christmas does not imply that Christ was born on this very date.  But no, his point, it turns out, was that what was so fundamentally wrong with the Imam's diatribe is the view that Christians believe that God was born.  This is an apt occasion, therefore, to make the point that indeed, there is nothing wrong with saying that God was born.  On this point the Imam got the Christian message right.  It is right and Christian to say that God was born. 

Now of course we must add that such phraseology can be misunderstood.  In a similar way, I know that the repulsion to the practice of referring to the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God can be divided between those who are true believing Nestorians on the one hand and those who misunderstand the intent of the phrase on the other. 

It is vitally important, from a christological perspective, to be able to say that the One Who was born of the Virgin, the One Who allowed Himself to be held, first in a womb, and then in the arms of humans, and ultimately, to be carried and lifted up by the cruel nails and harsh wood of the cross, and finally held again in the arms of His holy mother, this man Who has assumed our flesh, is also the One Who made the world, and holds the universe; He, the man Jesus, is Himself God, the Pantocrator, the Uncreated Angel of Great Counsel Who goes ahead of us and fights His own battles and announces His own Message of victory.  For He is the Message, and He is our Victory.  God became man, and dwelt among us.  Indeed, He still dwells among us in the Holy Eucharist.  The liturgy is Good News, but not merely in some informational way; it is the holy ground of God's personal advent among His beloved people.   What if all Christians were to behave in church as reverently as Muslims are reputed to conduct themselves at prayer?  The reality of the Christian mystery might sink in and be taken more seriously by those within and without. 

I think this particular Imam (I have not figured out his name) gets it, at least to some degree, and one of the lessons to be drawn from the fact that an Imam recognizes one of our major points of doctrine is that seeing it or "getting it" does not guarantee faith, but can be a great place in which to begin to really talk, unlike the foggy, vacuous dialogue promoted by the Christian theologians whose jello-like doctrine gets less real the more they talk.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

when does Christmas begin and end?

Lulu, the company that is facilitating my self-publishing efforts, is doing a series of promotional coupons which employs the theme of the twelve days of Christmas.  That is, a different coupon is being offered each day for twelve days.  I am glad to take advantage of this, and promote these coupons at my blog, etc. But the problem is that these twelve days of coupons for the twelve days of Christmas began a few days ago, and will end on Christmas Day.  This confusion is found not only at Lulu, but really all over our American culture.  I recall one year seeing Jimmy Falon's late night show, where the same thing happened; he did a comedy bit in which a different ugly Christmas sweater was highlighted for each of the twelve days of Christmas, and sure enough, those twelve days were the days leading up to Christmas.  As I say, this seems to be the common view in secular American culture.

It just goes to show that the world's view or take on matters, even when it intersects in superficial ways with the Church's perspective, is skewed; it is off the mark.  The accent is wrong, just by a little, but enough to show that it is incapable of truly appreciating the spiritual significance of these observances. 

So let us be clear.  We are in the season of Advent.  It is a fasting season, a penitential season, though at the same time a season in which we look towards and prepare for the Christmas festivities.  The two seasons, Advent and Christmas, are interrelated, interdependent, and interlocking; and yet each is distinct. 

Advent culminates in a special way with its final eight days.  That is, the 17th through the 23rd of December are days in which we cry out for the coming of our Lord among us, and look forward to the celebration of His holy birth.  We do so, eg., with a special set of antiphons for the Magnificat at Vespers called the O Antiphons.  In a sense this week of prayerful anticipation of the coming solemnity is like the novena of days in which the Church anticipates the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.  Then, the final day of Advent is the 24th, ie., the Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord.  That is traditionally one of the so-called fish days, ie., it is a day in which Christians traditionally abstain from the meat of all land animals and fowl, making final preparations for the festive Christmas celebration in prayerful penitence. 

Then, at midnight, as though we cannot wait any longer for the festivities to officially begin, and to mark the traditional nocturnal timing of the holy event, the Church begins her season of Christmas with the Holy Mass, the first of three proper masses that day.  Christmas continues with a full octave, and since the next season doesn't begin until the 6th of January, there are really twelve full days of the holy and festive season of Christmas, from the 25th of December through the Twelfth Night, which is on the 5th of January.

Many things could be said of those twelve days, and how some take on their own liturgical character, etc.  And I do not know if I will be able to get to any of that here this year, due to the fact that so much of my energy during the week is taken up with my job.  But I did want to clarify and remind the general readership that Christmas does not culminate on the 25th.  It only begins on that day.  Let us celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, with devotions and festivities in our families, and with liturgy and prayer in the church, and thus once again be a positive example for the culture around us.

communion hymns

I suggest that for the "communion hymns," ie., the hymns sung by the congregation during the Holy Communion at Mass, that it would be appropriate and make the most sense to sing hymns that are actually communion hymns, ie., hymns about and in praise of the Blessed Sacrament.  Seems logical enough.  And it's not as though we suffer from a lack of such hymns in our language.  There is even a whole section of hymns in Lutheran Service Book devoted specifically to this subject.  Several of them are actually worthy of being used in the Church.

And yet, in my experience in Lutheran churches it is virtually never the case that the hymns during Communion are reserved for singing about the venerable Eucharist.  It seems far more common for the communion time to be peppered with hymns directed or loosely about the sermon theme of the day, or hymns of praise, or hymns on the doctrine of justification, or a combination of the above.  Pastors who are slightly more eucharistically conscious will throw in maybe one eucharistic hymn, maybe two, usually just one.  At my own parish it seems to be usually the second hymn at communion.  I attended Mass recently at another church where there was not one eucharistic hymn; all the hymns during Communion dealt with the theme of the day.  This is not to pick on any one congregation or pastor, for it seems to be a matter, rather, of the current culture of our church. 

I challenge the reader, both lay and clergy, to take this as an opportunity to think on this issue.  And then think some more.  I know it is longstanding custom to sing a very limited number of eucharistic hymns, if any, during the celebration of the Eucharist.  But ponder what is going on.  Meditate upon the holy mystery that is taking place during that time.  The tradition of the Church has given us some great hymns for this purpose.  If we end up singing them more often than we have been accustomed to singing them, the awful consequence will be that we will actually get to know them better.  They will come to occupy a deeper place in our hearts.  And they will prove to be a great aid to our devotion and worship.  They would help make of that moment more than the utilitarian "distribution" time, for we might actually, as a church, come to see that time as a Holy Communion with Christ our Immanuel, our Eucharistic Lord.

Lulu coupon for dec 18th

If you purchase a book today at, enter this code at checkout:


and you will get 15% off today's order.

Consider these titles:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lulu coupon for Dec 17th

If you make a purchase today at Lulu, use this code at checkout:


and you will get free ground shipping.

Among the many things you can find at, let me highlight a few books which I recommend for your consideration.

Lord, Teach Us To Pray.
This is a Lutheran prayer book, with several essential prayers and devotions for the young, for the family, and really for anyone.  You can get it three ways. (Click below for links.)
digital download

The Essential Lutheran Prayer Book
This is like the one above, but also have a lot of prayer in Latin as well as English.  Excellent for students, and all who want to learn many of our prayers in Latin.  This book comes in three designs:
1. Black

digital download

2. White

digital download

3. with a photo of the sunrise (taken at Milwaukee's lakefront in November of last year)

digital download

Arabic Christmas hymn

Sunday, December 4, 2011

a thought on the page shuffling church

It is to engage in a silly euphemism to refer to the guitar, amp, and drum-set led worship of some churches as "diverse worship."  The present reflection, however, is not about those churches.  Rather, I suggest that where the term "diverse worship" might just as well fit is in the many churches, school chapels, etc., where the prevailing practice is to make use of the diversity of mass forms within the same book, and in today's LC-MS that tends to mean the much hyped Lutheran Service Book.
But it is always worth assessing the wisdom of what one is doing; it is always good for a church to ask itself not merely whether it is achieving its own goals, but whether it is being blind to what it is missing by going with this diverse approach to worship.  Is there a wisdom to the ways of our church's liturgical past, which we fail even to consider?  Maybe we failed fully to appreciate the wisdom of nondiverse worship even when it was our prevailing practice (which was not all that long ago).  Nevertheless, as I say, it is always worth asking these questions. 

One consideration I would suggest is that when a church uses two or more of the mass forms in LSB, and it seems increasingly the case that churches are using three to five of these masses, the church is driving further down the road away from realizing its own heritage of being the praying Church (ecclesia orans).  Now why would I say such a thing?  Let me clarify that I don't mean that when a congregation uses the Common Service alongside the inventions of Hillert, and Starke, et alia, in some cases spread out throughout the year and in other cases all within the same month or several weeks, that the people are not in some way praying the liturgy, just that the degree to which the liturgy is truly prayed is necessarily lessened, and our growth in the way of being the praying Church is necessarily retarded.  This is because the people are much less likely to know, deep down, the words of the liturgy on any given Sunday.  They are less likely to know it, and they are ipso facto less likely to love it, deep down in their heart.  Sure, they enjoy it.  They have been told it is a good thing; and besides, some of the tunes in these newer masses are rather catchy, at least to women.  Yet enjoyment is not the same as the place the liturgy could have in the hearts of the faithful if it were known the way it once was.  You may think your people do know and love it just fine.  After all, you have been at this since 2006.  As I say, it is always worth reconsidering things you have come to assume. 

No, instead of embracing our heritage and nature as ecclesia orans, we have become ecclesia legens, the reading Church.  Just look around in church next time you are at Mass, and think about what is happening.  Let's say you have been using Divine Service "Setting" 2 for a few weeks, and today all of a sudden you turn to the first page of the worship handout and learn that today you are going to use Divine Service "setting" 4.  How many people will be dependant on keeping the book in their hands?  In fact, it is my contention that this is not even a matter of people being a bit confused the first Sunday that such a switch happens, but that it has simply become the unthinking custom among us, pretty much year round, to keep the book in our hands, and to be a page flipping church.  We look down at the book in our hands, replete with sloppily worded footnotes reminding us that the Church once got to use the word "Catholic," and we look down at the handout, and notice its quirky font patterns and occasional typos, or maybe its erudite commentary on the liturgy we are supposed to be busy celebrating and praying.  We don't get to look up anymore. 

There is, it is worth noting, rich diversity inherent in the Church's liturgical tradition, and I mean even within a single rite, or ritual use, such as, say, the Lutheran Common Service tradition.  This happens, first of all, with the change in propers each Sunday and feast, and it also happens with variations of musical usage.  But the modern Lutheran Church has given in to the diversity even of the texts and order of the ordinary parts of the Mass.  And a full appreciation of the diversity built into the Church's liturgy is one of the casualties of the confused sort of diversity we have come to embrace. 

Despite all of the complaints I have against the modern Roman Rite (and I have virtually nothing positive to say of it), one thing, specially relative to the present topic, is worthy of comment.  And it has especially come to light in the past week or so, as the new English translation of the Mass is being set in place throughout the English speaking parts of the Roman Catholic world.  Namely, one type of diversity you will not see in the Roman Rite (except by priests who are openly defying their own ecclesial authorities) is that of the texts of the mass itself.  After the revision of the English translation had been worked on, argued over, and finally implemented, it is simply understood that this is now the text of the prayers.  That doesn't mean it will be equally liked by everyone; in fact, it is kind of funny to read some of the reactions.  Consider one woman's reaction after experiencing the new translation for all of one week (as reported in this AP story) :

Maribeth Lynch, 51, a publisher from the Milwaukee suburb of Elm Grove, said she was "distraught" over the changes and would refuse to "learn the damn prayers."  "It's ridiculous. I've been a Catholic for 50 years, and why would they make such stupid changes? They're word changes. They're semantics," she said.  "It's confusion. All it's doing is causing confusion," she said. "You want to go to church and be confused?"
Don't get me wrong.  The new translation is, in my view, a marked improvement, and I am happy to see it in place.  Hopefully Mrs. Lynch and others like her will acclimate to it.  The reason I highlight the negative reaction to it is that it shows that one thing Catholics instinctively expect is consistency of the texts of the prayers of the Mass (It also goes to show that people -even modern Americans- are by nature traditionalist, though not always in a well informed way).  Throughout the English speaking world, a Catholic can expect to hear Mass celebrated using the same prayers, verbatim, as back in his own home parish.  On this count, the Roman Catholic Church has managed to preserve something that was once instinctively understood by Lutherans as well.  Disunity of prayers within the same church is so foolish as to be unthinkable. 

How much better would the spirit of worship be in our churches if we could pray the prayers, chants, canticles, responses, and hymns by heart.  We would be able to set the book and the printouts down.  We would be free, if we wish, to fold our hands in the classic manner, palm to palm, in the spirit of prayer and reverence.  We would be free to stop reading as though we were at a symposium or in a lecture hall, and to lift our eyes off the literature in front of us, and look up.  Hopefully, what most Lutherans would then see, and maybe rediscover, are the sacred mysteries being reverently celebrated in sacred space, around sacred furniture, and amidst sacred art.  We might actually notice the christological symbolism on the back of the celebrant's chasuble (like the Y shaped cross).  We might even see the crucifix, reminding us that it is Christ's redemption that is being lavished on us.  We would see the altar, the great symbol of Christ our Sacrifice, and ponder that right here and now, in the Holy Mass, we are blessed to look up, for Christ our Redemption is drawing near.