Monday, March 2, 2015
Catholic Liturgy. . .
My questions have nothing to do with the great issues roiling in the Church, but with worship. Oh, not liturgics. I know the outline of the mass very well; it is essentially the same used by Lutherans. Better put, Lutheran liturgy is, when employed properly, a Catholic liturgy, except for a few hiccups here and there.
So Russ Saltzman, lately of Lutheranism and now a Roman Catholic, opines upon the frustrations of a convert with a new (old) church. You can read him here. . . One thing he wrote struck me -- Lutheran liturgy, when employed properly, is a catholic liturgy. . . His complaints about Roman Catholics singing, or to be more accurate, lack of singing, are to be expected. No one every accused a Roman Catholic parish of raising the roof in song (or chant). It might irritate me, if I were to swim the Tiber, but it would be surely expected and no surprise. The mighty singing tradition of Lutherans, and most of their Lutheran chorales, are absent in the average Roman Catholic parish.
His point is well taken. The Lutheran liturgy, when employed properly, IS a catholic liturgy. There is no denial of this in our Confessions nor did the Lutherans feel especially uneasy about this until more modern times. When we are Lutheran on Sunday morning, it is a catholic liturgy that is the prayed form of the truth we confess. But the alternative is just as important. When the Roman Catholic mass is done poorly, it is just as bad as what you often find in a less than stellar Lutheran setting. And it is done as poorly in the average Roman parish more often than not. I look at the Roman parishes around me and they sing evangelical style Haugen songs, if they sing at all. The chant tradition and the use of the full propers is largely absent from any Roman Catholic parish around me (even the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Nashville where the guitar reigns supreme as done the sound of contemporary Christian music). Many of the people do not ever open their mouths to speak the liturgical responses or do anything at all except receive Holy Communion. In and out as quickly as possible is the norm here (can anyone point me where it is not the norm for Roman Catholic parishes). Maybe if you live in Manhattan (the city in New York not in Kansas) you might find enough choices to find one where the mass is observed piously, reverently, with strong participation from the pews, and where the preaching is grand, but that is not what you find in a typical Roman Catholic parish.
There are those who say that Lutheranism in theory is better than the practice. Yup, you got that right. But it is also my experience that the same is true of Roman parishes. The theory is better than the reality of Sunday morning (or late Saturday afternoon). But the preaching is typically far worse than you find in the average Lutheran parish (and I do not say this to showcase Lutherans as well above average -- except in Lake Wobegon, for sure). There are surely those who will disagree with me, but they do not have a Tennessee address and I bet most of them looked long and hard to find a Roman parish which had the best of both worlds. So why not look as hard for Lutherans who employ it properly?
I suppose if someone wants to jump ship, the theory is enough to make you do it... but the Sunday morning experience will have to sustain you. In that regard, I will gladly take the average hymnal using Lutheran parish, where the liturgy may not be high church but it is done reverently and where the people participate with voices in song and responses more than a mumble. The theory may be enough to get you to jump but the Sunday morning experience is what will keep you afloat. I don't know what Saltzman is finding but if he lived here I think it would not take long to long for some of what he left behind.