Friday, January 28, 2011
You Must Also Read the Things in Red
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.
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.
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?!