Monday, July 12, 2010

"The Western Rite" - Deutschlander - Part 1

A few weeks ago, we posted part of the introduction of an essay written by Prof. Em. Daniel M. Deutschlander entitled “The Western Rite: Its Development and Rich History and Its Relevance for Our Worship Life Today.” Over the next few weeks, we will be posting the remainder of that essay for those who are not minded to download it and read it all at once. It's just that good!

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PRELIMINARIES


To a considerable extent an appreciation for the way we worship depends on the attitude that we bring to what is about to happen in the worship service. The entirety of the Liturgy — and we should be aware of it before and as we celebrate it — offers us and our people a stunning reality check. It bids us keep clear in our minds the sharp distinction between what seems to be and what really is in God, in us, in our worship itself. My own prayer before entering the chancel was that famous entry prayer from Psalm 43 with my own little addition: Enim ago ad alteram Dei; ergo miserere mihi! Jacob expressed it best when he declared after his encounter with Christ, Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it. ... How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven (Gen. 28:16-17)! It matters not whether the service is conducted in a barn or a cathedral, in a desert place or on the Mount of the Lord: We are about to enter into the presence of the living God. Wir besuchen den Gottesdienst! At his invitation we have come to visit him. We have been invited to be his guests in his house. He has hidden himself there in the shrine of the gospel, and he at the same time reveals himself through it and has promised to reveal himself in no other way . He who made all things out of nothing, he whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain will break the fundamental rule of nature and physics, Finitum non capax infiniti. He, the ineffable and incomprehensible, will give himself to us in the water of baptism, in the liturgy of the Word, in the presentation of himself in bread and wine.

And what are you, O sinful man, that you should come into his presence? At Sinai God covered himself with clouds and proclaimed the Law with thunder and lightning and a mountain shaking. At the dedication of the Tabernacle and of Solomon’s Temple, God came down in a cloud and veiled his glory, lest mortal man see him and die. In all the worship of the Old Testament only the High Priest could approach him and then only on the Great Day of Atonement and only with blood in his hands. But you draw near to him, speak to him and for him; you present him to his people and his people to him. At least your knees should shake a little! No one is worthy of so exalted an office. But he has entrusted it to you in the holy hour which is about to begin. The lowliness of your person, the lowliness of the place, the lowliness of those coming to visit him and to hear him should not obscure from the eyes of your soul the great glory of the moment.

It seems to me that even Lutheran art and architecture are uniquely suited to this attitude as we begin our celebration of the Liturgy. How different Lutheran churches are from most others. For all the beauty of the great cathedrals in Europe, what stands out in so many of them? Distractions! To be sure there is a beautiful high altar with its tabernacle, its crucifix, its statue of Christ. But all around is art and artifice that turns the eye and the soul away from him, whether it is beautiful painting or the statues of the saints and their altars. Often the altars dedicated to the Mother of God are more decorated and have more candles than his altar does, and they certainly have more visitors than his does. Nor is Roman worship lacking in ways to remove Christ from the center, even though so much of it is the historic Western Rite that we use. The priest is really the center, though of course that would be stoutly denied. He will offer sacrifice and that by virtue of the power passed on to him from Peter’s successor and his minions: All depends on him and on them if the sacrifice is to be a valid and efficacious one.

Or on the other hand, consider the sanctuaries of the sectarians. They are so barren in their appearance that the focus of attention is bound to be on the person sitting up front. There simply is nothing else to look at. And their worship so often reflects just that focus: The preacher is the star of the show, whose personality and flash are what have drawn many to the “service” in the first place. But enter a Lutheran church, and what do you see right from the start? The font where our sins are washed away, the cross or crucifix or statue of Christ from whom comes all the blessings that God has to give, the altar of the Sacrament where he feeds us with the very price of our salvation, the pulpit-shrine of his gospel where he meets us through the Word presented by his ambassador. The focus is at once on him who has invited us into is presence and who deigns to come and meet with us there, yes, who comes to give himself to us there.

Again, proper worship, proper celebration of the Liturgy begins with an attitude adjustment in the pastor, a marking of the difference in his own mind between the apparent and the real. In point of fact much of what he will do in the coming hour has been designed to accomplish just such an attitude adjustment in those who have come to visit God, to get them also to distinguish between the apparent and the real. What is apparent is weakness, meekness and lowliness in God as he appears in the Liturgy, so that we do not perish at his appearing. What is apparent is weakness, meekness and lowliness in his pastor, so that no one need fear drawing near. What is apparent is weakness, meekness and lowliness in those who have come to visit God in his house; they are a people filled with sin and need, and are so weak and lowly that they often are not even aware of their need or the depth of it at the beginning of the service. But the reality is vastly different. Here is the God who created heaven and earth out of nothing so that he could give it to us for our use; here is the Savior who became man and suffered hell in our place and rose again just for us; here and the Spirit who has come, as St. Bernard says, to kiss the soul in each portrayal of Christ and in the Word of God from the lips of his pastor. Here is the realization of the holy office of the ministry, the embodiment of the ministry of the keys to heaven. Here are the elect people God, chosen in eternity to be saints and heirs of eternal life.

And so we begin:


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Right from the first word of the Liturgy it’s clear: This isn’t about the pastor. It isn’t even about the attending crowd. It’s all about God, the one, true, only and Triune God. It is his name that stands over his house and all that is done there. He is the host. We are his guests. Historically there is disagreement over whether the Invocation is a prayer or a proclamation. It’s really both. In the mouth of the pastor God greets us with the proclamation not just of his person as three in one, but of his work for us as well. He who is our Father because of the work of his Son and the breathing of his Spirit has called us here. And so, as his doorkeeper and butler, the pastor says, In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

And the guests answer with a prayerful, Amen. They acknowledge that, yes, that is indeed the one who has drawn them here and invited them. All the things that seem important outside of this hour are as nothing in comparison to what is about to take place. Now we have come into the presence of God. We are always in his presence. But now, because of the cross, the font, the holy table and the tabernacle of the gospel in the pulpit, now we are aware of it in a special way. Let us give attention to him who descends to us and deigns to be our host in this holy hour! We will soon see and hear just how holy that hour is and how important compared to all the other hours of the week.

7 comments:

LPC said...

May I share what made me appreciate the Lutheran Liturgy?

First I got grounded on JBFA through the Confession. I was a Charismaniaco-evangelio and JBFA in that movement is skirted if not muddled.

When I understood JBFA and that the Liturgy is after or is the enactment of that JBFA message, I got to like the Liturgy.

LPC

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

"Or on the other hand, consider the sanctuaries of the sectarians. They are so barren in their appearance that the focus of attention is bound to be on the person sitting up front. There simply is nothing else to look at. And their worship so often reflects just that focus: The preacher is the star of the show, whose personality and flash are what have drawn many to the “service” in the first place. But enter a Lutheran church, and what do you see right from the start? The font where our sins are washed away, the cross or crucifix or statue of Christ from whom comes all the blessings that God has to give, the altar of the Sacrament where he feeds us with the very price of our salvation, the pulpit-shrine of his gospel where he meets us through the Word presented by his ambassador. The focus is at once on him who has invited us into is presence and who deigns to come and meet with us there, yes, who comes to give himself to us there."

"But enter a Lutheran Church..."

Which Lutheran church? The Missouri synod's, the WELS, the sectarian's? Christ can be found wherever He is found, so, we do not judge.

Make a clear point. There is a difference between sectarian worship and non-sectarian worship. Do not emphasize that if one enters a "Lutheran Church" everything is perfecto, or almost clear to perfect.

As is true, according to the Creeds, "We believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church."

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

Just to clarify, Christ Jesus our Savior is found in God's Word. God's Word can be found in places, perhaps even "churches," we confessional Lutherans are not apart of.

Faith, given through God's Word, therefore, can exist outside of the WELS.

I believe we should merely take note of those who separate themselves from confessional Lutheran practices- yes, sometimes those who are not of WELS, but especially and mainly those who are of WELS, who do not act, or practice, using our sound doctrine.

In other words, focus on the pastors within the WELS who do not provide their sheep with the Means of Grace,(Gospel in Word and Sacrament).

For sectarian worship, there is little one can do except acknowledge its danger and pray for those that are, perhaps, lost in it.

But again, as is true, according to the Creeds, "We believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church."

Mathetes said...

I love how Prof. Deutschlander's first bullet points right to Christo-centric worship. Not people-centric, as was covered during the 'sectarian worship' discussions.

Interesting how God's servant, the pastor, is described as a door keeper or butler. Given a pastor's role relative to God's house and the Kingdom of God, I suppose it's actually quite appropriate.

Mr. Benjamin Rusch

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

Interesting how God's servant, the pastor, can sometimes not be the door keeper or butler. In fact I do understand it that Christ himself will be the door keeper and butler, since our focus is on Christo-centric worship. :)

Norman Teigen said...

This looks like an interesting series of readings. As one of Norwegian descent, I am familiar with the Bugenhagen Order and am very glad that the Evangelical Lutheran Synod continues to use this order.

Norman Teigen
Lutheran Layman

Joseph Schmidt said...

I would like to see the WELS reintroduce Luther's Formula Missae with the elevation of the host during consecration.

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