This afternoon Cindi, Darcy, and I headed to St. Louis for a Gregorian Chant class led by Pastor Ben Mayes (of CPH). It was great - and it was all preparation for leading the celebration of Emmaus Lutheran Church's observance of Holy Cross Day.
The liturgy began with "The Royal Banners" and a procession with incense and Crucifix and Pastor Baker entering with a red cope. The cross was honored as it passed through the congregation. Then Vespers proper began. Four psalms were chanted, the last one - Psalm 113 - was chanted in Latin by Pastor Mayes. I got to ring the bell that announced when we stood - and only screwed up once!
The two readings were both chanted according to traditional tones and then Pastor Robert Baker (also of CPH and vacancy pastor at Emmaus) preached a stunning sermon on this day. He told the story of St. Helena's journey to Jersualem and the finding of the true cross and how it was identified by a healing miracle, and he pointed us to the fact that a "yes" to our Lord's cross inevitably entails a "yes" to our own. He spoke of how we must never be ashamed to proclaim the Crucified One and to find our comfort and joy in Him and in His sacrifice - given in love so that we might have forgiveness of sins. It was really a fine homily dealing with both the 1 Cor. 1 reading and the John 12 reading.
Then a Gregorian office hymn:
Lo, the blest cross is displayed,
Where the Lord in the flesh was suspended,
And by His blood from their sins
Cleansed and redeemed His elect;
Where by His hands transpierced
He redeemed the world from its ruin,
And by His lifegiving death
Closed the path of the grave.
Strong in its fertile array,
The tree of sweetness and glory,
Bearing such new-found fruit
'Mid the green leaves of its boughs,
Stately it reareth its head
By the streams of the clear-running waters,
Shedding from flower-decked boughs
Leaves for the healing of men.
Come let us worship the King
From the cross in His majesty reigning,
Who by the pain of His death
Joy hath restored to the world. Amen.
Then, during the singing of the Magnificat the altar was censed, and the liturgy concluded with Kyrie, Our Father, Collects, and (3x) Benedicamus and Benediction. The exit hymn was "Sing My Tongue."
Afterwards we had the joy of meeting and visiting - and a wonderful dinner prepared by the good folks of Emmaus. More visiting and then heading for home.
It was a beautiful and dignified liturgy - an unabashedly Lutheran service that whole-heartedly embraced the catholic tradition. I am very thankful for the whole experience! Thanks go to Pastors Mayes and Baker for providing the opportunity to adore the Crucified and His cross on this holy feast.
Anyone who wants more info on The Brotherhood Prayer Book and Lutherans using Gregorian Chant should visit:
Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood
Also, a reminder that the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following Holy Cross Day (that would be NEXT week) are days of fasting and abstinence: the Church invites her children to avoid flesh-meats on those days and to restrict food intake to 1.5 meals on each day, and to spend those days in more intense prayer.