Saturday, August 6, 2011

Good Words from an Unlikely Source

Pope Paul VI wrote well of the liturgy (many should heed his words and some wished that he himself had heeded what he wrote).  This particular quote is spot on.  The flourishing of the liturgical tradition of the Church is not like a garden of many plants within the same garden but the sending forth of branches and the leafing out of those branches from the same, solid, trunk of the tree. 

The liturgy, in fact, displays a similarity to a hardy tree, the beauty of which shows a continual renewal of leaves, but whose fruitfulness of life bears witness to the long existence of the trunk, which acts through its deep and stable roots. In liturgical matters, therefore, no real opposition should occur between the present age and previous ages; but all should be done so that, whatever be the innovation, it be made to cohere and to concord with the sound tradition that precedes it, and so that from existing forms new forms grow, as through spontaneously blossoming from it.

The words above represent a thorough going consistency with what we read in the Introduction to Lutheran Worship (the hymnal).

The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psahns, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition. How best to do this we may learn from his Word and from the way his Word has prompted his worship through the centuries. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day-the living heritage and something new.

Lutheran Worship, within its compass, seeks to carry forward the great heritage and add something new. 

I have said for a long time that the Church moves slowly and that this is by design.  The kingdom of God is not invented in each new and succeeding generation nor is the life and worship of this kingdom reinvented with the same regularity.  Rather it grows -- deliberately by God's grace and mercy.  So also the life and worship of this kingdom also grows but deliberately and slowly, maintaining its solid connection with what was passed down and adding to it only the best of the present that is worthy and will endure and then passing this on to those who are to come.

Whenever we have forgotten this and try to jump light years beyond our past of liturgy and confession, we inevitably get in trouble -- like the ship without power or rudder that gets tossed upon the sea of the present.  Our ability to navigate through the present and that we may have something to pass on to those to come are both entirely dependent upon our connection to the moorings of our past, sifted and sorted so that the best and most faithful of what was, becomes the "is" of our life together now, and what is the best and most faithful of what we add becomes the "will be" of tomorrow.

For a tree to grow well and to endure storm and season, it must be deeply rooted, oriented toward the sun (Son), and given room to send forth its branches and leaves.  Such is the authentic growth and evolving nature of the liturgy (and hymnody, I might add).


Anonymous said...

The Divine Worship Service is centered around God's gifts to us
in Word (O.T. reading, epistle,
and gospel reading, as well as the
sermon) and the Sacraments (Baptism
and Eucharist). Our hymns of praise,
prayers, confession of sins, and the
creeds are responses to His gifts.

The "liturgy" such as the kyrie, this
is the feast, offertory, sanctus,
agnus dei,nunc dimittis are all
Scriptural responses set to music
offered by the congregation to the

My point is this: God gives to us
his gifts and we give to God our
gifts in Divine Worship Service
and the "liturgy" as sung by the
laity is not the main emphasis.

Anonymous said...

Well, I darn near snorted coffee up my nose. The fact is that the state of the liturgy after the bumbling of both Paul VI and Bugnini was anything but healthy, prompting John Paul II to inaugurate the promulgation of the Third Roman Missal which will go into effect this Advent.

Paul VI was a rather sad and tragic figure and after the debacle of Humane Vitae he got a reputation as one of the most ineffectual popes of our time.

The fact that the Church of Rome now has two completely different rites based on two completely different theologies living side by side is proof enough of the liturgical mess in the Catholic church. No, the "Extraordinary Rite" is not simply "Option A" as opposed to the novus ordo, "Option B" but that's something Lutherans can't seem to comprehend unless they've actually been there.

Oh, and there's now "Option C" at my former RC parish, a Sunday evening "toe tapping" (to use their own words) "contemporary mass."

And this is what we should model our worship on?



Terry Maher said...

Well I'll be double dag dog dipped if I hear anything like the thoughts in either the LW or Paul VI quotations coming from the Reformation or the Counter Reformation. Seems like the Lutheran Reformation quite proudly pointed to retaining the ceremonies previously in use except where they contradict the Gospel, and the Counter Reformation sought both to overcome the bewildering variety of liturgy to which the Reformers themselves objected and to prevent any intrusion into the Mass by the Reformers' errors by allowing no rites less than 200 years old.

But what the quotations sure do sound like is the mantra of twentieth-century "liturgical movement" left, right, and centre, Protestant and Catholic alike: a tradition that is no tradition at all but a cut and paste, mix and match, of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue -- four canons, five "settings", option A, B, or C for this or that prayer, and the like.

Instead of a multiplicity of rites over time and books, a rite of multiplicity in one time and book.

No wonder the contemporary worship crowd is so vocal -- they are no different than the supposed champions of tradition except in sources.