Friday, August 18, 2017

To Own the Mass or Be Owned by it. . .

There is no shortage of goofiness resplendently enshrined for the world to see -- all courtesy of YouTube and the internet.  But some should not be viewed (except as a warning not to do what is being done while you watch).

The principle of inculturation says that the Mass is to be "owned" by the people and their culture.  In other words, it is a raw form to be adapted in culturally relevant ways by those for whom the Mass exists.  It is a strange idea, to say the least.  First of all it forgets that the Mass is its own culture and neither adopts nor borrows the culture around it.  Second it commits the error of suggesting that the Mass is about us.  Of course it is for us (given and shed for you. . . ) but it is definitely not about us.  If for that reason alone, we should refrain from attempting to interject culturally relevant forms into the form of the Mass.

BTW this is not about the kind of culture we find here -- there is no cultural elitism here or racism.  It is just as wrong if there is an oompah band and polka dancers.  The Mass has its own culture, the culture of the means of grace, which engages and transforms the culture around it.  By making what happens in the chancel merely a stage for the display of what is cultural relevant or reflective of personal preference, we make our Lord and His eternal Word secondary to us and the moment in time in which we live.  Further, it means the Mass must be constantly adapted and updated to reflect the changing tastes and usages of the moment -- something which is not wise at all.

The mark of that which is catholic is continuity.  Change must be incremental and not captive to the moment.  We see this already in the abiding language of the Our Father that transcends cultural and linguistic changes.  But we must also be careful not to enshrine one glimpse of time into the Mass and make it the perfectly pristine moment which must be guarded against any and all development.  It this is true for Rome, it is also true for Lutherans.  I wish it were merely a matter of tolerating some goofiness from time to time but the end result of inculturation has been to make the Mass a platform for us to perform, to make the participants into soloists and stars on God's stage, to reduce the Lord to mere spectator, and to steal from Him both the gift and blessing of worship. It matters not who does it nor does it matter how sincere the people are.  The Mass remains the Lord's and it is His gracious will to invite us into it so that the Word of the Lord may enter our ears and make its home in our heads and in our hearts and the flesh and blood of the Lord may cleanse us body and soul. 


Carl Vehse said...

Smalcald Articles.II.II.7,11: "But since the Mass is nothing else and can be nothing else (as the Canon and all books declare), than a work of men (even of wicked scoundrels), by which one attempts to reconcile himself and others to God, and to obtain and merit the remission of sins and grace (for thus the Mass is observed when it is observed at the very best; otherwise what purpose would it serve?), for this very reason it must and should [certainly] be condemned and rejected.

"Moreover, this dragon tail of the mass, has produced a multiplicity of abominations and idolatries."

See also "Luther and the Mass: Justification and the Joint Declaration" by Rev. Daniel Preus (Logia, 10: 4, 2001, 13-19).

Pastor Peters said...

"Mass" there did not mean the Sacrament of the Altar or even the liturgy but the objectionable parts which turned sacrament into sacrifice, depriving people of their greatest gift and stealing away from the once for all sacrifice of the cross. The word "mass" is there shorthand and not a reference to all that happens from invocation to benediction, the historic shape and form. You know that. What I was posting about is inculturation in which we adapt the liturgy (mass, a word we Lutherans are thoroughly confessional in using) to fit the culture instead of recognizing that the liturgy conveys its own culture of new life, forgiveness, and hope to our broken world and disordered culture. But you know this. Further you also know that the most of the parts of the mass most objectionable may have been taught to the people but were never heard by the people since the canon was said sotto voce, or silently, with only the priest and perhaps one or two closest to him hearing. Luther excised a part the people did not hear but which certainly colored how the mass was perceived by them.

Carl Vehse said...

The capitalized word, "Mass," was used exclusively eleven times in the title and article, which features a YouTube video of a Roman Mass. The obvious conclusion is that the article is referring to the Roman Mass, denounced by Martin Luther and the Lutheran Confessions.

Yet in your reply, Rev. Peters, you use the uncapitalized "mass" four times (the fifth use of "Mass" was the first word of a sentence).

This is the sophistic word game that sometimes has been playedin the past with the capitalized "Catholic" and the uncapitalized "catholic," without careful pointing out the different visible and invisible distinctions.

As for the Romish Mass shown in the video, any "goofiness" is insignificant to the "abominations and idolatries" already in the Roman Mass (at least from a confessional Lutheran viewpoint).

Pastor Peters said...

No word games here. Mass can be used either for the abuse (in the way Luther summarized the abuses with the term mass)or for the liturgy, the Western form of the mass. You can use it as you choose. I used it to refer to the Western form of the liturgy, the mass, as a historic form. When I refer to the abuses of the Roman mass, I will make that clear. As for the Roman mass shown in the video, the goofiness was displayed as an example of the goofiness in Rome that we Lutherans also know only too well. I did refer to the idea of the mass or Mass or MASS as raw form or as form with its own culture. So really, Herr Strickert, I am not sure what point your comment is trying to make. I am sure you do NOT agree that the mass or liturgy is merely a form, adaptable as may please to reflect local culture. Or, maybe you do.