11 August 2007

Invariable Prefaces

Both the liturgies of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom contain "invariable" prefaces leading up to the Sanctus. LSB similarly offers such a preface in Divine Services 4 and 5.

The preface in DS 4 is based largely on the traditional Swedish rite (took classic shape in 1531, but probably had medieval precedents). The preface in DS 5 is Luther's exhortation to communicants from the German Mass turned into a prayer. Today I want to look only at DS 4's preface.

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, O Lord, holy Father, almighty and everlasting God...

Up to that point, the Preface is of a piece with all Western prefaces. But what is interesting is how it continues:

...for the countless blessings You so freely bestow on us and all creation.

God is the Giver of good gifts - too many to count - and they come to Him in absolute freedom. He bestows them on us because He loves to give - and so all creation is confessed as graced from God. Salvation is ultimately cosmic - and we dare not forget it.

Above all, we give thanks for Your boundless love shown to us when You sent Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into our flesh and laid on Him our sin, giving Him into death that we might not die eternally.

If thanks is due for creation, what can we say for the unspeakable gift of our redemption - a redemption that encompasses both our Lord's incarnation and His paschal mystery? What greater proof of the Father's love could there ever be than this gift of His Son into our flesh and this laying on Him of all our sin to free us from eternal death?

Because He is now risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, all who believe in Him will overcome sin and death and rise again to new life.

As the Apology confesses so powerfully, when we speak of the Eucharist, we speak of the living Christ, for we know that death has no more dominion over Him! It is the Body that WAS crucified but that IS NOW risen which we receive and when we do so in faith, neither sin nor death will ever be able to hold us.

Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying...

The cause of our endless joy and joining in the angel's song then is ultimately this: that the Crucified and Risen One comes to us to free us from sin and death. Here is why we dare to join the Cherubim and Seraphim in their unending hymn!

What we may regret is that more of the Swedish original did not make it in. "When we were in such a bad case that naught but death and eternal damnation awaited us and no creature in heaven or on earth could help us, then You did send forth Your only-begotten Son who is of the same divine nature as Yourself, to take our flesh of the Virgin Mary, did permit Him to undergo death and laid on Him our sin..." But still, what is actually in LSB is a beautiful confession that could be heard and confessed and prayed week in and week out with great joy.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Swedish Preface would make a nice ferial preface! From what you have posted of it, is that the whole thing, or is there more?
While we're on this topic, the old Ambrosian Proper Prefaces are absolutely beautiful.
Brian Westgate

Christopher Palo said...

I wish I would have heard this more when growing up. However great this is, it cannot compare to the Preface of St. Basil the Great's Liturgy. Just MHO.

William Weedon said...

Indeed, Christopher. In the process of putting the Hymnal together, we worked long and hard on a proposal that used St. Basil as the basis. It was finally rejected (regarded as too verbose, I think). Sad. Here it is:

It is truly good, right, and salutary, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, Lord of heaven and earth, Master of all creation, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Savior and true God, the image of Your goodness, the living Word, eternal Wisdom, and the true Light by whom the Holy Spirit is revealed. This is the Spirit of Truth and Sonship, the fountain of life and sanctification, by whom all creation offers You eternal praise. Therefore with angels and archangels, thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying:

Past Elder said...

Did any one ever think, Why don't we just use the Swedish rite rather than "base" something on it?

That's the problem with DS1 and 2, or rather their originals, the Roman novus ordo, which was "based" on all sort of stuff and ended up being none of it.

At least we got the reGreekification of the kyrie right as opposed to the novus ordo, recognisably preserving the "In peace let us pray to the Lord", but that dates from the LBW anyway, and I'm quite sure the "Greeks" would find it hopelessly reductive of the original.

Did anyone think that reGreekifying the mass of the catechumens, Liturgy of the Word, whatever, would also be served by putting the confiteor where it is in the Orthodox rites, in the mass of the faithful. That's the biggest thing about the Eastern liturgy that has always made sense to me -- Scripture and preaching can profitably be heard by believer and non believer alike, but only a believer can confess his sins in a Christian sense so the confession of sin would really belong in the second half of the mass for believers only!

Which reminds me, how about shooing them all out after the first part as in former times -- now that's closed Communion for you! I'll bet reviving that didn't come up!