30 December 2010

The Prayer of the Church and the Roman Canon - Some Musings...

In one of the comment threads below, I proposed that the "radicalness" of the Lutheran liturgy in abandoning the Roman Canon is actually in practice not quite so radical as it may appear if one looks not from the Preface forward, but from the Preface backwards, because the Lutheran liturgy restored (often immediately before the Preface) the ancient practice of the Prayer of the Church (of which the survival of the Bidding Prayer on Good Friday is perhaps the best example).  When the Roman liturgy lost the regular use of this Prayer of the Church, the content of its intercessions, thanksgiving, remembrances, prayer for a beneficial communion and oblations were folded into the Roman Canon.  The Canon asks God to bless the gifts presented, intercedes for the holy universal Christian Church and her clergy; remembers various needs; commemorates the saints; intercedes for the gathered assembly; commemorates the Lord's passion, death, resurrection and ascension; begs His acceptance of the sacrifice; prays for a worthy communication in the sacred mysteries; intercedes for the departed and again commemorates a number of saints, begging God not to weigh our merits but to pardon our offenses; and asks all these things through Christ from whom it confesses all good comes.

The Lutheran liturgy indeed prayers exactly for many of these (and a number of other intentions, as well), but does so in the General Prayers or Prayers of the Church.  Here are some brief samples from the Altar Book of Lutheran Service Book:

We give thanks for all Your goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Your dear Son and for the revelation of Your will and grace... We humbly implore You to rule and govern Your Church throughout the world... Comfort, O God, with Your Holy Spirit, all who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death or anything adversity... Receive, O God, our bodies and souls, and all our talents, together with the offerings we bring before You, for by His blood Your Son has purchased us to be Your own that we may live under Him in His kingdom... These and whatsoever other things You would have us ask of You, O God, grant us for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your only Son, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (GP 1)

Almighty and eternal God, worthy to be held in reverence by all people everywhere, we give You humble and sincere thanks for all the innumerable blessings, which You have bestowed upon us without any merit or worthiness on our part.  We praise You especially for preserving Your saving Word and the holy Sacraments... Grant and preserve to Your holy Christian church throughout the world purity of doctrine... Protect and defend Your Church in all tribulation and danger.  Strengthen us and all fellow Christians to set our hope fully on the grace revealed in Christ, and help us fight the good fight of faith that in the end we may receive the salvation of our souls... Bestow Your grace on all nations of the earth... Accept, we implore You, our bodies and souls, our hearts and minds, our talents and powers, together with the offerings we bring before You as our humble service... Grant Your Holy Spirit to those who come to the Lord's Table this day that may receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ in sincere repentance and to their abundant blessing... And when our last hour comes, support us by Your power, and receive us into Your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ... (GP 2)

Almighty God, we give thanks for all Your goodness and bless You for the love that sustains us from day to day.  We praise You for the gift of Your Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  We thank You for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; for Your holy Church, for the means of grace, for the lives of all faithful and just people, and for the hope of the world to come.... Save and defend Your whole Church, purchased with the blood of Christ... By Your Word and Holy Spirit comfort all who are in sorrow or need... We remember with thanksgiving those who have loved and served You in Your Church on earth who now rest from their labors (especially...).  Keep us in fellowship with all Your saints and bring us at last to the joys of Your heavenly kingdom.... All these things and whatever else You know that we need, grant us, Father, for the sake of Him who died and rose again and who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (Prayer of the Church, Responsive)

For the holy Christian Church throughout the world and for all who confess the name of Christ... For all who partake this day of Christ's holy body and blood, that in their eating and drinking they may receive the blessings of forgiveness of sins and renewal of life and have a foretaste of the feast to come... O Lord, heavenly Father, we gratefully remember the sufferings and death of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation.  Rejoicing in His victorious resurrection from the dead, we draw strength from His ascension before You, where He ever stands for us as our High Priest.  Gather us together from the ends of the earth to celebrate with all the faithful the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.  Graciously receive our prayers, deliver, and preserve us, for to You alone we give all glory, honor, and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (Prayer of the Church, Ektene form)

I would argue that rather than our liturgy being devoid of the Eucharistic prayer, we simply moved the vast majority of the content of the intercessions, thanksgivings and such to a very slightly earlier position in the Prayer of the Church (agreeing with much of the content of the Canon, but not following its wording), and thus left the way clear for the Our Father and the Words of Christ to stand as the consecration itself after the Preface and Sanctus.


Pastor Peters said...

Wil, I would not dispute much of what you said except only to ask "why" -- this for a Church whose Confessions insist we conserve and restore and not innovate. I have been at many congregations where the Prayer of the Church lasts about twice as long as the DS 3 Canon. I would argue that the "Lutheran" way would have better been to reform the objectionable parts of the canon and not reform the canon by eliminating it...

The Lutheran Forum article by Wendebourg is interesting in its suggestion that the Lutheran reform of the canon was less a restoration of the early church practice than following the medieval church to its logical conclusion. There is much there to think about, no?

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Fr. Weedon,

Could you also speak to the cause of the Our Father's consecratory function being obscured (I think) in some orders, where it is said by the congregation (e.g., LSB DSI and II)?

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

From Lochner:

"XIV. The Canon missae, the silent mass [or canon of the mass]. This consists of (a) a prayer for the church as a whole, (b) an intercession for individual members of the church (commemoratio pro vivis), (c) the prayer of remembrance for saints departed, starting with Mary and her meritorious intercession (Diptycha sanctorum), (d) the recitation of the words of institution or consecration, spoken softly by the priest after and during deep, common silence has occurred, (e) the prayer and gracious reception of the now accomplished sacriice (canon missae post consecrationem), and (f) the prayer for the dead (Memento pro defunctis), whom the sacrifice of the mass is supposed to benefit.…

"Inexorably following the Offertorium were the Secreta and the whole Canon missae. Of the latter, Luther writes, “In short, what is wrong in the Mass concerns sacrifice and works, which God wondrously arranges so that the priest reads almost everything secretly and calls it the Silent Mass. But what is sung openly by the choir and among the congregation is almost entirely good, and is praise, as if God were to say indeed that He wanted to spare His Christians from the Silent Mass, and that their ears need not hear such abomination, and in this way let the clergy be afflicted with their own abomination.” (Jen. A. 5, 196 b.)

"It is well known that around the same time Luther also published his writing, “On the Abomination of the Silent Mass, Which Is Called the Canon,” in which he translated and glossed it for the people, since he wanted to pull the roof off the devil and, for the sake of the people, “throw light on him, so that everyone might see what a terrible, abominable thing the rotten devil is doing every day throughout the world by way of the Silent Mass.” (E.A. 29, 118.)

"In his first liturgical labors, then, Luther extracted from this Canon of the Mass both the Preface and the Words of Institution, the latter properly as the Consecration, which, like the Our Father, were not to be recited, spoken, or sung softly as in the papistic Mass, but aloud, “so that they could be understood by those in attendance.”

William Weedon said...

I'm not so much justifying the loss of a fuller anaphora, Pr. Peters, as I am describing the reality that we have in our hymnals in the liturgy we've inherited as Lutherans in the LCMS.

Matt, that is a rather sad development. I think it came about from folks being used to praying the Our Father in p. 5.

Past Elder said...

I don't see a contradition at all -- between the relocation of things in the Roman Mass to the Church of the people, and the insistence that we are doing nothing new yet protesting the "silent" Mass.

Long ago in a galaxy far far away, known as the pre-Vatican II church, we were taught that the Mass is that way (silent canon) for a positive and contructive reason. Namely, that the Mass takes its structure from the life of Christ, who first taught but did not act for our salvation (his public ministry, mirrored in the Liturgy of the Word, to use the newer term) then acted but did not speak (his Passion and Death, during which he did not speak in his own defence even when invited to).

Therefore, the mass of the catechumens is a verbal event, but the mass of the faithful is an action, not a verbal event, so such words as there are, are said silently and the focus in on the action of Christ is an valid priest confecting a valid Eucharist. To the extent that bells are rung at the action of the consecration, not the words, so you do not miss it.

At which you land precisely in ex opere operato, and not in the power of the Word to do what it says. Accordingly, while we may retain belief in the Real Presence and speak the words, we do not have it, because we lack a valid priesthood extending the work of Christ in this regard -- though, Benedict adds lately, we cannot say Christ is entirely absent either, which as usual with Rome is a bone that addresses nothing, since that he is not present for the reason we believe he is present is still maintained, but let's not look at that so much.

So then, the removal of the Roman Canon or any canon is a conservative step, literally, conserving the true and original practice of the church and removing the later accrections contemporaneous with Rome's developing false doctrine of the sacrament, the sacraments generally, and the Roman church's nature as church.

That is why we do as we do and not as the Orthodox, who have similat illusions to maintain, say in editing out of their "Gregorian" canon for "Western Orthodox" so zu sagen what they don't like in the Roman Canon.

Thus the mass among us does indeed retain for the most part the ceremonied previously in use, however, we cannot retain what obscures, as Luther points out, the power of the Word to do what it says and not the power of the Roman priesthood to be what it says it is.

No anaphora, no canons, Verba only, and put the other stuff where it once was and where it belongs yet.

Which is also why a thousand murders will not offend God as much as one Roman Mass -- blanch as I do, being so strange to controversy and fiery expostitory writing as Luther sometimes evidences -- and since Vatican II this is even more, not less, true, with the bogus, er, novus ordo.

Past Elder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Past Elder said...

Sorry, double posted. Also meant to say relocation to the Prayer of the Church not church of the people. This computer with 7 is even worse than mine with Vista in lack of "I know what you meant" function!

Anonymous said...

In her historical overview in the
Lutheran Forum Winter 2010, Wendebourg believes Martin Luther
made an important distinction in the
Holy Communion liturgy. He clearly
separated the Words of Institution
from the Eucharistic Prayer as far
as their intent. The Words of
Institution, "Take eat this is my
body, Take drink this is my blood,"
are Christ's gifts to us and spoken
to the congregation. The Eucharistic Prayer is the church's
gift of thanksgiving spoken to Christ for the gift of his body and

Rev. John Frahm said...

Me likey

Past Elder said...

I would find that argument hard to support. The Roman canon is not a prayer of thanksgiving. It is rather a symmetrical arrangement of various prayers of intercession. Things which, as PW points out, do not belong here but in the Prayer of the Church.

The closest one comes is Unde et memores, but even there, Rome's characteristic retreat from the Gospel is evident, just as it is in the miserable words after the Confiteor.

And, just as Rome's mealy mouthed hemming and hawing "may" this and "may" that is reformed by our clear proclamation of the Good News of forgiveness, Upon this your confession etc, so also to we eliminate reference to the Eucharist as something that "may" anything, and rather proclaim it for exactly what it is, not may be.

In fact, catechetical material in one of my preconciliar missals specifically contrasts the silent nature of the prayers of the Canon, to not distract from the action of the Consecration, from the loud praise and thanksgiving of the Preface.

It even references, as an example of a more unified canon as contrasted with the collection of prayers that is the Roman Canon, the eucharistic prayer of Hippolytus. The latter would become the basis for Eucharistic Prayer II in the novus ordo, while a reductively butchered version of the former would become Eucharistic Prayer I.

Therefore, in a mass reformed to not conflict with the Gospel yet preserve the tradition of the one and only church, and that rests upon the power of the Word to do what it says rather than the power of the Roman priesthood to be what it says, our various prayers for this and that are located in the Prayer of the Church, our thanks for Christ's gift to us is located in the Preface, and Christ's gift itself is located in the Verba.

Only, with no further human elaboration needed.

As is done in our Divine Service, unless, of course, as the late blog Luther At The Movies said in the sidebar, the parish is pastored by a lunatic who thinks worship should resemble an episode of American Idol, or, I add, a Rousseauian 1960s Romantic dreaming of a pristine "early church" revealed of course by modern revisionist scholars rather than the touchstone of consistency with Scripture such as contributed to the latest Sack of Rome known as Vatican II and its non-Roman hangers on.