05 July 2008

On Neglected Rubrics

[Note: Rubrics are instructions for HOW the rite is to be done, and they are written in red in our service books to distinguish them from the text of the rite, which is in black.] First one: It's there. It's there in Matins, in Vespers, in Morning Prayer and in Evening Prayer.

"The congregation remains seated for all readings."

I bring it up because there's a wide-spread tendency to allow the ceremonies from the Divine Service to filter over to the Daily Offices. In the Divine Service, the rubric is also clear: we stand for the Alleluia and the Holy Gospel. But our Service book directs that we SIT for all readings during the Daily Office, even when one of these readings is from the Holy Gospels. The Daily Office is NOT the Divine Service, and the Divine Service is NOT the Daily Office. Rather, the Divine Service is the sun around which the Daily Offices orbit as the planets.

Second one: Not technically a rubric, still it's there. It's in all five orders of Divine Service.

No matter whether the pastors uses the longer or the shorter formula for distribution, when the gift of the Lord's body and blood are received, the people respond: "Amen!"

Third one: It's there. In all five orders of Divine Service.

"The pastor and those who assist him receive the body and blood of Christ first, the presiding minister communing himself and his assistants."

The principal at work in this rubric reaches right back to the days of the first Nicene council which forbade the deacons who did not have the authority to consecrate the Eucharist in the Churches to give the Sacrament to those who did.

Fourth one: It's there. In all five orders of Divine Service.

"The presiding minister faces the elements on the altar during the consecration."

Hence, no picking up SOME of the elements and turning to face the people. If you have an east-wall altar, you FACE it for the consecration; if you have a free-standing altar, you can face the people over it, or you can face the elements the same direction the people do.

For Lutherans rubrics aren't in the category of Divine Law; they are in the category of good order. They provide guidelines for our liturgical actions to be uniform across wide swaths of the Church so that when we come to Church the behavior doesn't distract ("what's he DOING up there?") but is utterly taken for granted so that we can focus together on the one thing needful. As my friend, Pr. Paul McCain, likes to put it: "Say the black, do the red." If we all did so, our people traveling from parish to parish would find themselves at home wherever the name was LCMS or LCC - and wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

27 comments:

Rev. James Leistico said...

I'm assuming you must be quoting from LSB's Altar book, because the rubrics in my LSB here at home do not say what you quoted them as saying - though the first one is indicated by the simple "Sit" rubric before office hymns, with no "Stand" until after the readings are over. The third one in the hymnal is completely different after the comma, and the fourth one is completely absent.

William Weedon said...

Yes, all from the Altar Book.

Paul McCain said...

Pr. Weedon, thanks for this post. Now, why is that we do not stand for the Gospel whenever it is read? I've always wondered about that.

Question: Are there rubrics in LSB indicating the use of incense during the Offices, or Divine Service? I do not have my Altar Book here at home with me.

And, a thought. When I contemplate some who have a preference for additional rubrics, etc. I wonder if we could not say that "Some people are redder than others."

: )

William Weedon said...

On incense, there is the rubric that states in Evening Prayer: "The use of incense is appropriate as Psalm 141 is sung."

William Weedon said...

There are no rubrics for the use of incense during the Divine Service in LSB.

Mike Keith said...

I am thinking back to the Service that you preached at and I led at the St. John Chrysostom Lutheran Preacher's Retreat.... I think I did it mostly right :-) But I know that during Matins and the Service of Prayer and Preaching I have had the peopel stand for the Gospel....I did always wonder about that - time for re-education.

This should be a regular post each week - on the rubrics!

William Weedon said...

Oh, I see I neglected Pr. McCain's question on why when it comes to the Gospel reading. First, the rubric actually gives no explanation, so this is my own personal understanding of the difference, nothing more. The Gospel reading is the pinnacle of the Divine Service's first half. It is that upon which the sermon will be based, the hymn of the day based, and usually the OT is keyed to it as well. But the readings per se are not the pinnacle of the Daily Office. That pinnacle is the singing of the Canticle - which, except for the Te Deum, are from the Gospel of St. Luke. And for this pinnacle we stand. Thus, it's not that the words are from the Gospel alone that brings us to our feet from them; it is the FUNCTION of those words in the Divine Service that do that. That's my understanding. Others may have further thoughts to offer.

William Weedon said...

Pr. Keith,

An interesting idea. I'll have to consider something like that.

Past Elder said...

The temperature in Hell must have moderated somewhat, because I am generally, and perhaps have a reputation for being somewhat vocally, of the "say the black, do the red" persuasion.

I say not as a matter of Here's What We Should Do, but just as a significant impression from my first days around Lutheranism -- which was in WELS, not LCMS -- I was struck forcefully how at the Communion in which I could not yet participate, the pastor as a communicant himself communed last, from an elder.

Maybe it's a military image, but it seemed to express the care for the flock as a shepherd, first the men eat, then I eat. No captain's table or officers mess here.

This particular pastor also took care to face God with the people -- the dreaded "back to the people" of Vatican II -- when speaking to God on their behalf and/or as one of them, us, and to face the people when speaking on behalf of God. His communion practice seemed in line with that, communing as a man as anyone else, but as a man who is our shepherd after the flock has been fed.

Not unfurling the banner here, just stating something that still impresses me, even though concerns about liturgical matters and other things led me from my original synod to LCMS.

As to why stand for the Gospel reading at mass but not at the hours, right on, different kinds of services.

Paul McCain said...

Now don't tell me we stand on time and not another because we just have always done it that way.

Surely there is a post-facto sanctified and pious speculation we can force on this tradition, an elaborate fiction, surely we can develop one.

Call in the Gottesdienst boys, they are the right men for this job.

Susan said...

About the Words of Institution -- you said the pastor should not pick up SOME of the elements and turn to face the congregation. What if he can easily pick up ALL the elements and turn to face the congregation? Anything wrong with that?

William Weedon said...

Pr. McCain,

I have the highest respect for "the Gottesdienst crowd." They COULD probably tell us without even looking it up.

Susan,

Not "wrong." But not what the rubric says. It says to face the elements *on the altar.* What this particularly rubric is confessing is that the consecration has historically been regarded as a sacrificial element in the liturgy, rather than a sacramental one. Although it doesn't fit neatly into either category, the point is that the Words are being used to *consecrate* to set apart the elements. In that sense they are addressed to God as an appeal for Him to do exactly as He here promises. The old Lutheran Church orders are rather sparse on rubrics, but they come close to universal in actually prescribing that "the priest turns to the altar and chants:" then giving the Verba.

Rev. Jim Roemke said...

At our weekly Matins I had always followed the "stay seated" rubric for the readings, regardless. One morning, before the service, one of the women in the group asked why we don't stand for the Gospel. I told her that it is in the rubrics to just stay seated to which she responded, "Would it be ok if I stood up, out of respect for the Word of Christ?" To which I responded, "Of course!" I'm sure you would agree, as any one would, in such a matter it is perhaps good, right and salutary to stand.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

We do not stand for the Gospel in the daily offices because they are minor offices, and perhaps for other reasons.

On the pastor's self-communion, Luther's own advice was that one do this during the Agnus Dei. As Pastor Petersen has noted frequently, at a meal hosted by someone, the host always eats last, and lets the guests go first. But the pastor is not the host. Christ is.

Say the black and do the red is a good general guideline, but it should not restrict men who wish to embellish the service with more ceremonial than what is called for, so long as it is done in evangelical freedom. Luther refused to demand or restrict what was neutral.

What that means is that if I choose to make the sign of the cross with my thumb over my lips at the opening versicles of Matins, though such a rubric is not written in red in LSB, I'm not going to let myself be restricted by LSB's lack of said rubric.

William Weedon said...

Good thoughts. Pr. Roemke, of course! Pr. Beisel, I think that's bang on right. It's not that the use of additional actions are proscribed; but I'd encourage that the rubrics as they stand ought be observed. Yes, I make the sign of the cross on forehead, lips, and heart at the Holy Gospel, and yes I pray after kissing the Gospel book "by the Gospel words today may our sins be done away." But given the situation we're in liturgically (a world of hurt!), I suggest that the place for us all to begin is careful attention to the rubrics as they stand.

Paul McCain said...

Paul, now, granted, I do not dare even to dream to ascend to the heights of Rubrification that the Gottesdienst guys do, but....I think that if you wish to make the sign of the cross on your forehead, lips and heart at the reading of the Most Holy Gospel, that's great. It is a custom, not a rubric.

My beef with the hyper-ritualists is this:

When they attempt to suggest that only when Lutherans are using rubrics strictly deriving from 13th century Roman Mass forms, and reintroduce those into the Lutheran Divine Service today, they most often do so by assuming a haughty, dismissive "You guys don't get the liturgy, like we do. We are doing it best, and most properly. The hymnal and its rubrics is good enough for the liturgical Bohemians among us, but not for us, the true rubrically cultured elite."

The heights to which this kind of absurdity rises was achieved by a certain Gottesdient journal editor who asserted that unless a man does in fact keep his thumb and forefinger against each other from the consecration to the benediction, except for the necessity of using them to distribute the Body of Christ, he must be a receptionist, since he obviously cares not that a particle of our Lord's Body and Blood might go where we would not have it go.

Yup,he said it. That's how goofy this kind of stuff can get.

And my point is that if we simply do the red, say the black, that should be more than enough.

Those who wish to further embellish the Divine Service with rubrics ported in from Roman Masses of the 13th century apart from any such rubrics in our worship materials, and then appoint themselves the Liturgical Police among us do us all a tremendous disservice in the cause of retaining and strengthening historic Lutheran worship forms.

My .02. As always, your mileage may vary.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

So, in your estimation, is it okay to "embellish the Divine Service with rubrics ported in from Roman Masses of the 13th century apart from any such rubrics in our worship materials" so long as we do not presume, as your perception is, to "appoint ourselves the Liturgical Police"? In other words, is it okay with you if I use some customs and rubrics from, say, the 13th century, so long as I do not appoint myself as a liturgical policeman and let others do things as they wish without chastising?

Pr. Weedon, I agree with you that using what is written is a good start.

Past Elder said...

Maybe we could quit porting from 1960s Roman Masses.

Paul McCain said...

I believe there is every reason to try to do as much as we can to have uniform practices in our Synod, Paul. I've only been saying that, for, oh...forever, and most recently:

Say the black, do the red.

No, you should not use Papist nonsense from the depth of the abomination that is the Papist Mass. There is nothing commend such "foolish spectacles" and "to give the impression that our religion is not much different than the Papal religion" -- two points made in the Book of Concord.

Everytime I ask to have a set of rubrics from orthodox Lutheran days that would demonstrate to me widespread use of the kind of rubrification advocated by some, all I ever get is hemming and hawing, but I can show you how Piepkorn effectively yanked a lot of "Conduct of the Service" right out of High Middle Age Mass forms.

There was a Reformation, also in style, not merely in substance.

So, best to stick with the red and black we have been given.

The humanly devised ceremonials of the liturgy, and rubrics, were made by man, for man, not the other way around.

William Weedon said...

Now, Pr. McCain, you have obviously been asking the wrong person! What you need to do is get hold of the book by Christian Gerber (himself a pietist) describing the Church ceremonies of the Lutherans in Saxony - it is interesting precisely for those areas where churches continued to practice what was nowhere else noted in the their liturgical books. For example, while all the old orders appointed the Verba to be sung, I think we'd have not known of the wide-spread continued use in Saxony of the sacring bells during the consecration if he hadn't complained about it!

Now, I myself haven't had my hands on that book (much as I'd liked to have), but Joseph Herl did, and he wrote about it and much else in *Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism* - truly one of the greatest works every produced in English on early Lutheran worship. If you haven't got it, you need it. It's a GREAT work - and it's not cheap, but you know me. I got a free copy!!! Cheapskate, I know, but Herl and I talked throughout the time of his dissertation and found in each other two very old friends who dearly loved and knew the early orders. Where else but in Herl can you find out about them swinging the incense in Magdeburg in 1615 as the elements are processed to the altar to the sound of two choir boys, kneeling, singing "Grant peace, we pray..."?

William Weedon said...

P.S. Herl is also damnably frustrating. He's such a musician. He can go on and on about the music, and then he can do things like this:

Describe a certain order in which a long prayer follows the Sanctus and precedes the Verba AND NOT GIVE ME THE PRAYER!!!!

It skates close to ruining a friendship, that. ;)

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

"The humanly devised ceremonials of the liturgy, and rubrics, were made by man, for man, not the other way around."

Then it should not matter if we use something that is neutral, doesn't teach false doctrine, and is not contrary to the Scriptures, and has some historic precedent in the Christian Church (like genuflecting), right?

William Weedon said...

Pastor Beisel,

I can speak for McCain on this: He's been at St. Paul's and did not pass out when we elevated and genuflected (though these are medieval ceremonies). ;)

Paul McCain said...

Paul, I'm wondering if you are hearing what Pr. Weedon is saying. When we have near meltdown in proper understandings of worship, I think we have far better things to do than try to repristinate some mythical "best form" of the Divine Service, pretending we can somehow improve matters by obsessing over Medieval Mass rituals and rubrics. There is something much more important here. Best to do all we can to stick with the approved hymnal and agenda of our Synod, as Luther put it:

Now even though external rites and orders ... add nothing to salvation, it is un-Christian to quarrel over such things and confuse the common people. We should consider the edification of the laity more important than our own ideas and opinions ... Let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder ... For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at anytime, yet from the viewpoint of love you are not free to use this liberty...

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Putting the best construction on things, I would surmise that those who are more attuned to the finer points in rubrics and ceremonies (hyper-ritualists as you describe them) are able to be so because their congregations are beyond the danger of completely abandoning the liturgy. We fight the battles as they come to us. If a congregation is wholeheartedly committed to using the prescribed orders of service, and does not mind its pastor using additional ceremonies not necessarily prescribed in the hymnal, then perhaps they are within their rights to do so.

I agree with you that in a context where the congregation is hostile to the liturgy, it may be better just to try to get them to "say the black, and do the red." Piepkorn's dictum, in my opinion, is still the best: in the conduct of the service, there are two instructions: be reverent (faith), and be courteous (love).

Allen said...

On the topic of the readings in Matins; this is what I was taught to why we do not stand. 1. in Matins there may or may not be a reading from the gospels. 2. when there is a reading from the gospels it is simply that, another reading, with no rank or distinction above the others.

This simply may have been somebody trying to rationalize the rubrics, yet it seems to make a little sense.

Past Elder said...

The reading of the Gospel as the central reading in our Service of the Word, mass of the catechumens, or whatever you want to call the first part of Divine Service before the Communion part, arises from the Christianisation of the typical Sabbath synagogue service, point for point.

The Sabbath service has its own lectionary, with a cycle of consecutive readings of the Law so that it is covered in a year. A Jew typically stands when praying, not listening, but one also stands when the Torah is in motion or the ark in which it is kept is open, as when it is brought to be read. That is the origin of standing at this point in the service, carried over and extended when Gospel readings replaced Law readings and Epistle readings replaced the haftorah from the Prophets as a related reading. It is also why Matthew is placed first in the NT, since the historic lectionary uses it the most, so it stands first among the Gospels which stand first in the NT as the Law stands first in the OT.

The liturgical hours do not have such a direct derivation from synagogue services, so the carryover custom is not there, nor as has been noted does the Gospel reading in the hours have the same significance as it does in the Divine Service. But the hours do descend from the Jewish hours of prayer fixed by Ezra from existing tradition derived from the Patriarchs, who prayed in the morning (Abraham, GEN19:27), the afternoon (Isaac, GEN24:63), and evening (Jacob, GEN28:10).

Oddly enough, two versions of consecutive Torah readings emerged, one from Israel taking three years to complete, and one from the Babylonian Jews taking one year. The continuity being harder to appreciate in the three year, and there being no natural three year cycle to anything whereas a year is fundamental, the one year soon became normative everywhere -- a lesson lost on 1960s Rome and those who like to port from that rather than the historic Christian orders per the confessions.

So standing for the Gospel reading at Divine Service but not at the hours has liturgical precedent, in addition to the theological reasons, or rationalisations if you prefer, on which the precedent is based.