Saturday, April 8, 2017
Singing liturgy and not just hymns...
While not directly referencing the situation among Lutherans, it can be safely said that the Reformers clearly had in mind the High Mass -- the Sung Divine Service -- as the norm. Only in places where it was not possible did Luther offer His hymn setting or Deutsche Messe. Strangely enough, the hymn Mass has become the norm for some Lutherans. I am not speaking of the LSB DS Setting 5, either. I am speaking to the fact that many places where the liturgy is on the way out will retain hymns (or at least some of the most popular Gospel hymns) -- long after the people have forgotten the responsive chants of the Ordinary.
Just recently a visitor commented approvingly on the fact that we sing the whole Divine Service AND that we do not shortchange the hymns by singing only a few stanzas. She regularly attends a Lutheran congregation where the Divine Service is routinely spoken and the hymns are sung in truncated form (1st and 3rd and 5th stanzas). It might be conceivable if the pastor is actually deliberately choosing hymn stanzas but, as we all know, the purpose of omitting some hymn stanzas lies in the pursuit of the ever essential Divine Service that is under 59 1/2 minutes! In this case the woman said the goal was to be through the Divine Service in 45 minutes or less!!
Personally, I do not get the attraction for singing only the hymns within the Divine Service (and not the responses and chants of the ordinary). I find the practice of skipping stanzas even more suspect. It is precisely liturgical singing that is the essential singing of the Divine Service and hymns are optional. Perhaps when we begin to get that, we will learn the value of listening to the whole of the poetry of the hymn and we will learn to appreciate the full context of the Divine Service. Even more hopeful is the day when we can end the odd situation of a pastor speaking his parts while the people sing theirs.