03 September 2008

Neglected Rubrics One More Time

"While the offerings are being gathered, the presiding minister or an assistant prepares the altar for the celebration of the Sacrament."

No, it's not a rubric to fill dead time; it's a rubric to confess the deep inner connection between the offerings being gathered and the bread and wine that will be offered to God - first confessed as His gifts to us - so that He will give them back to us as the Body and Blood of His Son. Bread and wine do not magically appear. We remember that in the ancient Church the faithful brought gifts of bread and wine - most of which went to the poor and the support of the clergy, but some of which the deacons set aside for the Eucharist on that day. From what the people gave, the earthly elements were set apart for offering to God's holy purposes. Nowadays, the people bring monetary offerings usually, but the principle is the same. Nor does He ask from us grain and grapes - which would be His gifts directly. He asks us to present bread and wine - that is His gifts taken and worked with human hands, and then offered to Him. You begin to get the pattern: it's an W not an M. It starts up at the top with Him, and includes a bounce up to Him of the gift received, which He then sends back as more than we could imagine, and then we send up thanks and praise and service to the neighbor. The W instead of the M keeps it from being idolatry. It begins always with the downward gift and that is where the accent remains - only each time He ups the ante and gives more than we can either desire or deserve.

So Sunday as the plates are being passed, remember that the offering is made by those who have received good gifts from God and who are about to witness the miracle of what happens when God's gifts gifts are taken and offered back in thanksgiving to Him. He to us. We to Him. He is to us. We to Him. This little rubric about preparing the table as the offerings are being gathered reminds us that this is the pattern of life with our Giver God.


Mike Keith said...

W or M. I have never heard that. I like it. I like it a lot!

Anonymous said...

You call this a neglected rubric, although I must say, I've never attended a congregation where such a thing didn't take place. I simply assumed it was common practice, albeit simply for the sake of convenience. Thank you for such a great explanation of why we do what we do!

Past Elder said...

Re the bringing of gifts in the early church, and what is done with them in and out of church, there is a great post on Pastor Harrison's blog about that, being mostly a translation from Theodor Brohm, a founder of LCMS, who in turn was writing about the example of St Cyprian in Carthage in C3.


William Weedon said...


Neglected not in the sense of not being done; in the sense of not being thought about.

Glad you like it!

Pastor Elder,

He's a marvel - all the goodies he comes up with. And don't you love the Rough Rider look?

Past Elder said...

Pastor Elder? Wow, this business of hurrying laymen into the Office is farther along than I thought!

Pastor Harrison -- a pastor, reads in and translates from the early and the Reformation fathers in the originals, publishes, blogs, and gets his fingernails dirty out there in the reality of a fallen world's mess. I think I'd like to be like that when I grow up.

Chris said...

Why is it that the rubrics continually say "the presiding minister" or "assisting minister"? I know the term sounds too Catholic for too many Lutherans but why has priest been discarded? Minister is so generic and almost eliminates the idea that one is called and ordained.

William Weedon said...

I suspect the terms come from the liturgical movement. But there is no confusion regarding a presiding minister, for the rubrics are very clear:

Presiding Minister (ordained)
Assisting Minister (ordained or lay)
Liturgist (ordained or lay)

Hence, whenever Presiding Minister is used, that is for a portion of the liturgy that we reserve to those who have been called and ordained.

Past Elder said...

There used to be a joke that Catholics think everyone's a minister and some are priests, and Protestants think everyone's a priest and some are ministers.

That was long ago, in a galaxy far, far, away.

Now they've all got presiding ministers. It did come from the liturgical reform movement, after the Revolution, er, Vatican II.

When I was younger and RC, the Roman functionary designated to explain this latest change put it something like this:

The presiding minister at Mass is of course the priest, but the word priest obscures that Mass is a gathering of the community, the people of God, at which the priest presides, rather than a dichotomy of priest who does something and people who do not.

It leaves out, though, that a priest is ordained, and if that is left to the explanations rather than the terms used, what is to insure that the presiding minister is ordained or keep one from wondering why presiding ministers could not simply be anyone who presides.

Thus does the flock become less conscious of who is the shepherd. Shepherds can talk about shepherding in ways that may make sense to other shepherds, but not to the flock who did not go to shepherd school.

One thing about having a son home sick with an ear infection, you sure get to blog more during the day!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't think we can entirely blame the liturgical movement on Vatican II.

The first real encouragement to reform came from Pope Pius X elected in 1903. In the same year he issued a Motu Proprio on church music, inviting the faithful to participate actively in the liturgy, which he saw as a source of the renewal of Christian spirituality. He called for more frequent communion of the faithful, and in particular the young. Subsequently he concerned himself with the revision of the Breviary. This was to be the necessary spark.

And of course Pius XII was responsible for the revised Holy Week Rite in 1956.

Further, you can lay the early roots of the liturgical movement at the feet of the Benedictines.

Your "Vatican II" for Lutherans has some pretty extensive roots.

Chris said...

Past elder wrote: "The presiding minister at Mass is of course the priest, but the word priest obscures that Mass is a gathering of the community." Oh, come on. That is a total fallacy!

You're saying that the use of the word priest actually suggests that liturgy is no longer a "work of the people?" Get real. Totally weak argument.

Past Elder said...

No, I am not saying that. I am saying that is how it was explained to us when it was implemented. Which is why I introduced the paragraph from which you quote with: "When I was younger and RC, the Roman functionary designated to explain this latest change put it something like this:"

Alles klar?

Und Christine, God bless me sideways. Pius X was presented as a near saint when I was a kid pre Council, Pius XII's new Holy Week rite was all the new buzz barely two years old when I started serving Mass, and did you forget the feet of the Benedictines -- the least odious part about them -- is where I was taught?

Gott hilf mir.

Anonymous said...

Well, Pius X has since gone from being a "near" saint to an officially canonized one. But you knew that. Nevertheless his liturgical reforms pre-dated the Council by quite a few years and I have yet to meet a practicing Catholic who doesn't love the Easter Vigil restored by Pius XII. The older form was so bare bones as to be practically invisible.

As far as the Benedictines go, yes, I am aware of your adventures at St. John's, which is not the only institution in the Benedictine world.

My brother-in-law, who grew up well after the Council (unlike my husband, who grew up in the pre-conciliar Church) received a fine Benedictine education in line with sound magisterial teaching.

There's Benedictines and there's Benedictines. Verstanden?

The liturgical movement has influenced ALL the liturgical churches in the West.

The Schaaf's Kopf said...

So maybe I'm way off on the meaning of this topic. But in my parish as the offerings are being collected they are brought up together along with the bread and wine to be used for the Eucharist. This is done by a deacon who is assisting. Your thoughts? good, bad or stop it!?

William Weedon said...

Right out of St. Justin! A great practice for confessing what lies behind the rubric.

Past Elder said...

Two things --

for those amused or otherwise by the sabre crossing with Christine: yes I am aware he is a saint; the parish down the street to which I am "supposed" to belong is St Pius X, and actually he was canonised when I was 4, in 1954 (well, as it was 29 May and my birthday is 12 June, I was 3), so the phrase should be taken as indicative of the veneration he had continiously since his death; I understand exactly about the Benedictines; where I was hardly anyone we studied was Catholic and most were liberal German Lutherans, as the "liturgical movement" had no currency among orthodox Catholics; actually there was a fair amount of grousing about Pius XII's changes, particularly the Mass of the Presanctified (sounds like something by Wagner) which many found utterly destructive of the centuries-long character of Good Friday as the absence of the Eucharist pointedly expressed the darkness of that day and its resumption the light of Easter.

Now, the other thing. Maybe our host or some of the commenters may have some thoughts on this re the offering of the gifts.

In the synagogue, from which our worship derives, there is no collection at all, handling money being completely forbidden on the Sabbath. Financial support is collected completely apart from worship services. So, while the bread and fruit of the vine have clear derivation, how did the collection of the congregation's money (offerings) get into this at all, let alone become part of the Offering?

(I loved hanging out with ny old boss in his office -- he'd call the other guys and say Hey, the Love of God is free, but the synagogue has expenses, as one of his duties was collecting the offerings, but, even though Reform, not at services.)