Saturday, October 5, 2019

Where do you start?

The whole idea of worship is plagued with the presumption that simple is the starting point and elaboration is like choosing side dishes to complement the entree.  It is so common that it pervades not only Rome, with its idea of the Law Mass as being normal, but it also afflicts Lutherans who think of ceremony and ritual as condiments to add bits and pieces of flavor or variation to the norm.  When will we give up this idea?

First of all, in the history of the Roman Church, including the common history we shared prior to the Reformation,  the Low Mass (spoken without assisting ministers) is NOT the ordinary rite but the exception when these things are not available.  We tend to revert to the default and the presumption is that a spoken service without any music and without assistants is the default when it comes to worship.  We we want to be fancy, we add things to it.  Until it becomes the high mass (as the Anglicans taught us) or a Solemn Mass.  No, no no.  It is really the opposite.  Solemn Mass, high mass for you folks who like that term, is the ordinary which cannot always be possible and so an exception is made when, for example, we lack musicians or choir or an instrument or assisting ministers are not available.  We pare down the ordinary to make for the exception.

Luther understood this even if Lutherans don't.  The Deutsche Messe was never meant to be the norm.  It was always the exception -- where Latin was not used, where choir was not available, and where the ordinary (Formula Missae) could not be used, this was an exception.  Luther himself was pretty adamant that Latin continue and loved the language.  But Lutherans have a confused understanding of the reformer's reforms.  We presume that he pared down the rite to bare minimums, tolerating a few ceremonies and practices for a time, until folks could tolerate the simple rite (like Calvin but slower and more patient with the weakness of the people).  But that is not Luther and it is not Lutheran.  Luther was not one to pare down but to preserve as much as could be preserved.  He is a conservative reformer who conserved -- keeping as normative such things from elevation to chanting while being rather reserved when others were more radical.  It was not that Luther wanted these things gone as well but Luther was hesitant to make rules and to insist upon them (though when he had to, he did).

Lutherans are not barebones people who tend to simple is better.  We are moderate about making rules but we are robust about our rites, love the ceremonies without forcing compliance, and joyful in the use of music and musical resources to support the Word.  I am not sure who those people are who insist that plain is better, simple is better, minimalism is better.  I don't know who they are, but they are not heirs of Luther.  I have no idea how it ends up that Lutherans have presumed the norm to be spoken services, accompaniments from CDs instead of organs and organists, in bare settings empty of art and symbol.  These may be exceptions of necessity but that is not how Luther saw the future and it should not be how we are content to live it.


Carl Vehse said...

The Deutsche Messe und Ordnung des Gottesdiensts" was published by Martin Luther in 1526. But in his article, "Luther and the Mass: Justification and the Joint Declaration" (Logia, X:4, Reformation 2001, 13-19), Rev. Daniel Preus stated:

"By 1533, however, Luther carne to the conclusion that 'mass' should no longer be used in reference to the sacrament of the altar. Luther's Letter Concerning His Book on the Private Mass [AE 38, 227; WA 38, 262-272; StL XIX:1286-1299] is very illuminating in regard to his distinction between the two. In this letter Luther provided a definition of the tern 'mass' that clearly drives a wedge between mass and sacrament.

"The word 'mass,' Luther believed, should be defined as the sacrifice that the priest offers for sin. It should never be used to speak of that sacrament which grants to believers the body and blood of Christ and the forgiveness of sins.

"Lutherans tempted to use 'mass' as a synonym for the Lord's Supper should take seriously Luther's observations on the difference between 'mass' and 'sacrament.' The same confusion may very well result today when a term frequently used in reference to a sacrificial act performed by a priest is used carelessly by Lutherans in reference to the Lord's Supper."

Anonymous said...

Then by your logic the term worship should also be avoided since most folks think wrongly that worship is either entertainment for them or a place where they show God their love and sincerity.

Daniel G. said...

Anonymous, you are missing the point. What you call "worship" you rightly pointed out is entertainment. It is not about God but about you and how you feel. Good music, good entertainment, casual. Eucharist means thanksgiving and as such is directed towards God not us. The pastor is correct in his assessment. I am a Catholic and grew up in the post Vatican 2 church. Mass in the new rite is dreadful when not done according to the rubrics. But the rubrics themselves give the pastor so many options that is ridiculous. So when I can, I attend a high traditional Latin Mass or an Anglican Use high Mass. THOSE are truly worship. I have watched
Divine Services conducted at Redeemer Lutheran in Indiana and that is TRUE WORSHIP. So again, the pastor is correct.