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.


rogue evolent said...

A very true and perceptive post Deacon! Thank you. We did not have the Mass at our service last night either, but we WILL have it on Christmas Eve 2012! You are correct.
Blessed Nativity of Christ Jesus

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

Same to you, rogue. And happy New Year.