Monday, December 27, 2010

The Shadow of the Pope

"On a rainy Christmas Eve, Pope Benedict XVI followed a procession of Swiss guards, bishops and priests down the central nave of St. Peter's Basilica to celebrate midnight Mass before dignitaries and a global television audience. And Monsignor Guido Marini, as always, followed the pope..."  so goes a story in the Washington Post about B16's "master of the liturgy."  You can read the whole thing HERE.

Now some folks out there might thing this is a bit much -- even somewhat persnickety toward the ceremonies and rituals of the liturgy.  There are not a few voices, even among so called conservatives, who think that attention to detail in the liturgy is out of control fussiness and, well, not real manly, so to speak.  I find it strange that some folks can be so concerned with pure doctrine and then have such a cavalier attitude toward what goes on Sunday mornings.  They have little interest in things liturgical and little concern for the consequences of their practices (except, of course, for the holy grail of close(d) communion).

According to the article, the Pope has a shadow who knows the liturgy, whose concern is faithful practice, who knows the Pope to know where he needs to be and what needs to be done, and who is content to be in the shadows and not center stage.  I think that many parishes could use a shadow for a Pastor who is less concerned about things liturgical and somewhat casual about his role as presider.  It is not like people in the pew do not notice when things do not go smoothly, when it is clear how out of their element some Pastors are in the chancel, and how uncomfortable some Pastors are with the ceremonial aspect of the service.  They do notice and they either find themselves frustrated or they learn that the ceremonial and ritual of the liturgy is unimportant (which is just one step away from discarding the liturgy in favor of contemporary worship).

Now I am not a persnickety presider.  I do not fret over the position of my hands or other odd details.  Sunday I had a 3 year old boy come up into the chancel after the intercessions (much to the consternation of the grandmother) and casually took the boy's hand and returned him to his family without much of a stir.  But I am attentive to my role as presider and I cannot forget the counsel given me over the years for strong, loving and wise pastoral leadership at the altar. 

The Pope's shadow knows what sometimes Lutherans forget -- what we do makes as much of a statement as what we say.  I applaud someone who is attentive to the details -- not out of concern for aesthetics but for the faith, for what is confessed by the actions of the liturgy and witnessed by the faithful. 

1 comment:

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

The article seems to want to create a tension between Benedict and the rest of the church, in that he appears to be rolling back the reforms of Vatican II. Piero Marini is not so much defending the faith as defending his particular sacred cow.

We Lutheran pastors have always had shadows-fellow pastors. But how does work if practice varies so much between parishes and regions, if the exercise of Christian liberty tends to trump unity? That is, if I were to tell a brother that it is the pastor who speaks the Verba, not the congregation (as a broad brush example, not as something that is actually happening in my neck of the woods) what would be the response? A humble thanks for the correction? Probably not, more likely an 'in so many words' request to mind ones own business and a small quatenus laced lecture on liturgical adiaphora.

I'm grateful for brothers who graciously taught me what is not found in books, reverence. I'm thankful to brothers who showed me a better way without talking down to me or with the sole goal of showing they were smarter or more pious than I.