Friday, January 28, 2011

You Must Also Read the Things in Red

Rubrics.  A rubric is a word or section of text which is written or printed in red ink to highlight it. The term derives from the rubrica, meaning red ochre or red chalk, and originates in Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the 13th century or earlier.  Rubrics are authoritative rules of conduct or procedure or glosses in the text (explanations or definitions of an obscure word in a text) or directions for the conduct of Christian church services (often printed in red in a prayer book).
If you look through the hymnal or missal, you find these red notes all over the place.  They tell us such things as when to sit or stand or kneel... when to make the sign of the cross... when to sing a hymn...  They tell the Pastor when to face the people and when to face the altar, among many other things.  They direct the usages or practices of the Church (colors of the season, directions for preparing the elements for the Sacraments, and even what to do with what remains of the Eucharist (the reliquae).  And I could go on and on...

Brother Weedon has been publishing some of the rubrics from Lutheran Service Book in his wonderful blog.  I have been reading them and even posted a comment there.  The whole thing reminded me that too often the Pastors and people only read the stuff in black and too often forget or even ignore what is printed in red.  It is printed in red to get our attention.  As so many have noted, we are to do the red and say the black.  It is hardly complicated but, unfortunately for our Church, it is a simple thing too often overlooked at the expense of faithful doctrine and practice.

I venture to say that you have not read the book if you have not read the rubrics.  If you do not know the rubrics, you do not know the liturgy.  They go hand in hand -- the words which we say and the directions that tell us how and what to do.  They are not incidental because our practice is formed by our faith and our practice reflects what it is we truly believe.  So, for example, if our practice is sloppy or slovenly, then we are in essence telling people that what we are doing is not important.  Lord knows that there are already too many messages about the stuff of worship telling our people that this stuff is not important.  Pastors do not need to encouraging them or adding to these hints that how we do things is of little consequence.

The sad truth is that we did not pay much attention to the rubrics back when the hymnal was dated 1941 and the directions were in black italic and we do not pay much more attention to them today, even with the nice, deep red color to draw our attention to them.  It is to our poverty that we ignore the red.  Those who ignore the red seem prone to rewording the black.

We have a perfectly good way to introduce the lessons but so often the person reading (lay or ordained) seems determined to make up something new.  One of the worst habits formed from ignoring the red is the idea that we should greet the people with  a hearty good morning before we plow into the Word of God.  It makes me wonder what goes through our heads sometimes.  Reading the lessons means reading the Word of God so that the attention is on the Word and not the reader -- so why draw attention to who you are by hollaring out a "Goober says hey" before the reading?  Better to borrow from the Orthodox if we must ad lib:  "Wisdom!  Attend!"  But the easiest thing of all would simply be to pay attention to the rubrics.

The rubrics are put there not because some anal retentive type insists upon uniformity -- some German attribute of lock step precision drilling.  They were put there because it is not enough to care about doctrine in the abstract.  We care about it in the specific and concrete of the liturgy -- what we do and how we do it.  Some folks think I am terribly persnickety  Really I am not.  I know some folks who really get into the nitty gritty of rubrical conformity and precision.  I am not one of them.  But I care about what we do and how we do it -- I care because it reflects upon the Word and Sacraments of God.  We hold that good practice is an extension of faithful doctrine.  It is really that simple.

It is not that the rubric police will show up and cart you off if you ignore the red while making up your own black.  It is not that heaven will fall to the ground and the work of God's kingdom will crash to a halt because you skipped a liturgical direction printed in red.  It is not that the means of grace will be rendered impotent because you forgot a bow or turned the wrong way.  Nobody is saying this.  I am not saying this.  But if what we are doing as representatives (ikons) of the Lord is important, if we believe that God actually works through His Word and Sacraments, then a little care about how we do what we do and what we do is not only good, it is salutary and beneficial.  And, believe you me, people notice. 

People learn through seeing how we do what we do as well as what we do.  I once watched a waitress pick up a knife off the floor, wipe it on her apron, and place it back on the table.  Now I am a firm practitioner of the five second rule when it comes to things dropped.  But it is a little unseemly when you catch somebody practicing the home rule in public.  So Pastors remember that you are not at home, you are in public.  People are watching.  Read those lines printed in red.  See what they say and try to follow them.  Read them often enough so that you know them as well as you know to say "In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit."  The better you know them, the easier they are to follow.  These things printed in red are really pretty good stuff.  They actually make sense the more you do them.  So give it a shot, won't you?!


Anonymous said...

Rubrics lost their credibility in the
1981 hymnal Lutheran Worship. With
all of the options available in that
hymnal it became popular to print
out the liturgy in worship folders
each Sunday. Today, most parishes
use the Worship Builder and still
print out the liturgy. Most of our
members never actually handle The
Lutheran Service Book of 2006. We
could save a lot of paper and money
by simply using LSB and not printed
worship folders with hymns printed
out as well as the liturgy.

Pastor Peters said...

I don't know about the real cost. We spend about $10-12 per week on printing out the service with music. You could say the same about color bulletin covers (which we do not use).

The reason we print it out is that we found that some people were not opening the book but would open the bulletin. We also found that with so many people coming from such different hymnals and liturgical practices, it allowed an easy way for everyone to be on the same page. But then again our congregation is much more mobile than most and if we had a more stable congregation I might think otherwise.

Brian Yamabe said...

Our congregation just switched to using the hymnal with a bulletin for the introit and gradual. I like it a lot. I don't know if how much of a cost savings there is, but that is part of the reason. Also, it dramatically cuts down on the amount of paper used.

We previously didn't have the music printed, so I really enjoy having that aspect of using the hymnal.

John said...

Sorry, but I do not understand printing in a service folder that which is laid out in an easy to follow manner in LSB.

LSB eliminated the page or hymn number problem of previous hymnals. Another super feature is listing the Scriptures from which each part of the liturgies are taken. This shows that the liturgies are the Word.

Pastors, do your members know the treasures that are in the LSB prior to Hymn 331? Do they know where to turn to prepare for the Lord's Supper through the prayers and use of Luther's Small Catechism on The Sacrament of the Altar?

Stop giving them reasons to leave LSB in the pew rack. Print only the Propers and the Lessons in the bulletin.

AFOR said...

We use the LSB in our church and the pastor does well with the rubrics. However, he has left the pulpit and preaches from the chancel. When he ends the sermon he does the ending blessing,"The peace of God..." while he is walking over to pick up his hymnal from wherever he set it when he started the sermon. I think this type of sermon shows a lack of preparation because it misses many key points that would be in a transcript or even from better notes. Also I think that the delivery and way he ends it shows disrespect for the Word.