Monday, January 16, 2012

a liturgical irony

It is very common in Lutheran churches for the Gospel reading in the Mass to be read exclusively by an ordained priest, whether he be the pastor or some other priest.  This is well-intentioned, and is, in the grand scheme, a positive tendency.  I could comment on how making the Gospel reading the exclusive domain of the presbyterate is an inadvertent rejection of the office of deacon, hallowed as it is by millennia of churchly practice, but that is not the point of the present observation.  Instead, and I don't say this against any particular pastor or church, but against an odd way of thinking that seems endemic in modern Missouri, I find an interesting irony.  Namely, this rule is kept even in many of the places where lay preaching routinely occurs, such as seminary field education parishes and seminary vicarage parishes. 

To be clear, I do not mean to imply that lay folk ought to read the Gospel in the Mass.  They should not.  Neither should they preach, though that also must be another discussion.  My point is that I find it funny, and ironic, that we let these guys preach, but we don't let them read the Gospel.  It is somehow inappropriate for them to read the Gospel upon which they will preach.  Are you picking up on the queerness of this line of thinking?  It's perfectly okay for a layman to publicly preach if he is deemed by the synodical apparatus to be an acceptable exception to what we claim in the Confessions, yet the reading of the Gospel is sacrosanct, the sole domain of the pastor.  The question is, if a seminarian can be assigned preaching duty in the Mass, as they routinely are in the vicarage year, why is he kept from reading the Gospel?  Why is reading the Gospel considered more important than preaching?

I will argue against seminarian preaching on another occasion.  Here I just wanted to highlight a particularly odd example of what I would call inconsistent thinking.


Anonymous said...

Rubrics do not matter, as law, when the context demands gospel.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

The specific irony that is hidden in your post, good Deacon, is the fact that Missouri has lost sight of the office of ordained Deacons. Granted that the first deacons were appointed to "wait on tables" so that the Apostles could devote themselves "to prayer and the ministry of the Word." (Acts 6:3,4

But "waiting on tables" was not the exclusive duties of Deacons. They also had assigned functions during Divine Service. The Church delegated to them the task of proclaiming the Holy Gospel. This is their historic and traditional duty.

Missouri also fails to remember that the Church, in her wisdom, has established a total of seven orders of clerics (or clerks, if you will).

The three Major Orders are Bishops/Priests, Deacons, and Sub-deacons. The four Minor Orders are Acolytes, Exorcists, Lectors and Porters. Each of these Orders (ranks) have specific roles and duties.

In that Missouri only takes notice of Priests, it is not wonder that ordained, but disenfranchised Deacons are invisible.

At Mass celebrated with Priest, Deacon and Sub-deacon, when only Priests are present, a priest functions in the role of Deacon and Sub-deacon. In his persona as Deacon, a priest does proclaim the Gospel; but he fulfills the Deacon's role.

Your odd example of what you call inconsistent thinking is, most likely, a logical response to the absence of, and/or a failure to acknowledge the very existence of validly ordained Deacons.

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

Thanks, Dcn. Muehlenbruch, for your comments.

Regarding the anonymous comment above, I must say I have absolutely no clue of its origin; could be friend, stranger, bureaucrat, powerful, obscure, whatever; whether it is meant in earnest or sarcasm or as advocatus diaboli. Yet I say with all respect and cordial objectivity that it is wrongheaded to the core. There is nothing unevangelical about the rubrics of the liturgy. That is, they are not legalisms, but servants of the very Gospel itself. But if you are serious, then tell me, what rubric brought up here in particular stands in the way of the gospel?