02 June 2008

Rubric 6

That is, in LSB, for the Litany:

"The Litany is particularly appropriate in penitential times, whether season (Lent, Advent) or days (Wednesdays, Fridays, and special days of repentance and prayer)." Altar Book, page 410

The assumption imbedded in that rubric is that Wednesday and Fridays are ordinarily days of penitence. This is an old idea among Christians, going back even to the Didache (which may well have been composed before the NT was finished being written):

"But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; Matthew 6:16 for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but do ye fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday)" (Chapter 8)

Thus, rubric 6 links into the great Christian tradition of not merely penitential seasons, but the regular, weekly observance of penitential days. Two days of each week on which to eat less (fast) and to pray for God's mercy.


Scott Larkins said...

Rubrics in the LC-MS?



William Weedon said...

Well, as Piepkorn put it once, "honored perhaps more in the breach than in the keeping."

Scott Larkins said...

A.C. Piepkorn is becoming my champion. Ya know the link between the Church Triumphant (A.C.P.) and the Church Militant (We) becomes ever so vital. Bloody near requesting the prayers of A.C.P. Boy could that get me throttled if I were a clergyman.

William Weedon said...

Ah, but the beauty of being a Lutheran, Scott, is that you needn't request his prayers to be assured of them. With us, it is not ORA pro nobis, sed ORAT pro nobis; not pray for us; but he prays for us!

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Pr. Weedon:

I look at this with various reactions.

1. If your congregation has this kind of practice, I'm flabbergasted. Most LCMS congregations can't spare an extra half-hour a week outside of Sundays.

2. I can think of a lot of "weaker brethren" who look at that and think monasticism, no matter what day you do it.

3. Maybe this is a reminder that I can't do everything that's commanded, and I need to just suck it up and fix on the cross again.

Did I mention there's no church up here in the Bay? :)

William Weedon said...


The Didache, though, was just describing normal Christian (not monastic) practice: fasting two days a week. Those days were Wednesday and Fridays. They were penitential days from the earliest times of our faith. And in those earliest days, the point was never to do any work to EARN heaven - they were utterly convinced heaven was pure gift. The point of those ascetic disciplines was to LIVE heaven - to practice for eternity where the Word of God will be our sole nourishment. It was out of the joy of knowing and living in Christ, that these practices grew up.

Dixie said...

Yes, Wednesday, I am told is kept in remembrance of the day Judas made his deal and Friday in remembrance of the Crucifixion. I have to ask, Pastor Weedon, as there are other things in the new hymnal that draw from the practice of the early church. Was this rubric always present in the Lutheran hymnal for litanies? Or is it a new addition? Did y'all have an Orthophile on the hymnal committee? Because I didn't think Wednesday, other than Ash Wednesday, was a penitential day in the West, but I could be wrong and would like to know if that is the case.

Anyway...good to see such an inclusion in your new hymnal.

William Weedon said...


TLH had a rubric that noted it was appropriate for Wednesdays and Fridays, but without noting those as "penitential" days (hence the reason for its appropriateness).

Fr John W Fenton said...

Pr Weedon,

As you stated, the custom of praying the litany was tied to the custom of fasting. In the Byzantine Rite, Wednesday and Friday are still maintained as days of abstinence.


As best as I can determine, the Wednesday abstinence seems to have disappeared in the West as late at the 19th century (depending on what time of year and the location.) It is still maintained during Advent in the WRV.

Of course, amongst Roman Catholics, both the weekly Wednesday and Friday days of abstinence are no longer observied--except on the six Fridays in Lent.