23 September 2009

Stand to Sing

Have to love the writing from St. Benedict of Nursia in today's appointed readings in Treasury:

"Therefore, let us consider how it benefits us to behave in the sight of God and His angels, and let us then STAND TO SING, that our minds may be in harmony with our voices."

We stand to sing because we know we are worshipping in the presence of God and are surrounded by His holy angels as we gather together in His name.

P.S. Okay, okay, I'll also fess up: I HATE to sing sitting down as a musician; you can't get the air properly into your chest that way, or at least it is harder to do. Standing and singing - well, they just go together.


Tapani Simojoki said...

I agree. However, I would love to compare the second extract, on prayer, with the original. Did Benedict really mean to say "hearts declared pure" and "pray together in the Divine Service", or is this the cleaned-up version?

Chris said...

I just wrote something similar in my blog, Fr. Weedon. It parallels what you wrote.


William Weedon said...


Definitely an interpolation (marked by the brackets). Why the editors felt the need to do that is utterly beyond me; makes no sense at all.

It's also wrong to refer it to the Divine Service, for he was speaking about the Daily Office.

What he actually wrote was: "We realize that we will be heard for our pure and sorrowful hearts, not for the numbers of our spoken words." [Rule Chapter 20]

The "sorrowful" juxtaposed to "pure" already shows that by "pure" he doesn't mean sinless, but a heart that is earnest in repentance. Frankly, I'll probably correct it in my Treasury.

Petersen said...

Standing is, mainly, a ceremony for praise. Sitting is, mainly, a ceremony for the reception of teaching. We sit for the sermon and the Bible readings. Lutherans sit for most hymns because they understand them not mainly, or mostly, as praise, but as teaching. This is one of the points where Lutherans and Protestants diverge.

Chris said...


So, let me get this straight. Lutherans do not stand during hymns because they think they are being taught? If that is the reason that is ridiculous and needs to be changed. Worship is active...active! To sit is to be passive and then the word liturgy loses all meaning.

Past Elder said...

Et non in multiloquio, sed in puritate cordis et compunctione lacrimarum nos exaudiri sciamus.

And let us be assured that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard, but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.

To which he immediately adds:

Et ideo brevis debet esse et pura oratio, nisi forte ex affectu inspirationis divinae gratiae protendatur.

Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure, unless it happens to be prolonged by an inspiration of divine grace.

Ain't no Divine Service or declared pure about it.

Now, if you want to get to the absolute heart and soul of monastic life and prayer, go to Chapter 40, De mensura potus, and "potus" ain't President of the United States.

William Weedon said...

Now there certainly are hymns that tend toward the didactic. One thinks of "These Are the Holy Ten Commands." But I do not think most Lutheran hymnody falls primarily into the category of teaching per se; but of praise. We stand for the first and last hymn of each Divine Service.

Tapani Simojoki said...

As I thought. A rhetorical question, if you like. Sometimes [most of the time] it's more helpful to append footnotes than to meddle with the text. If Paul's letters weren't in the NT, a lot of earnest Lutheran editors would insert a lot of square bracketed words in them when he gets going about holiness of life, etc.

And re the discussion here, let's all be careful about making too much about what "Lutherans" do. Do you mean American Lutherans? LC-MS Lutherans? Ohio District Lutherans?

I grew up standing for all the Bible readings - not just the Gospel - to acknowledge that we were being addressed by God in His Word. Sit for the sermon, certainly, but stand for the lections. We sat for everything else, bar the Gloria & Laudamus, Sanctus and Benedicamus. Prayers, hymns, liturgy, the lot. This in Finland. [Thanks to the Liturgical Movement and Anglicans, that's all changed now - though they still sit for hymns and much of the liturgy.]

In Kenya, we stood for everything except the sermon.

In the UK, the practice is influenced by the LC-MS. Stand for opening and closing hymns, Gospel, prayers and the liturgy. Sit for other hymns and OT/Epistle readings.

Why? Well, it seems that we do what we do and a lot of the time we then justify it with some theological rationale.

Oh, and I wouldn't want to draw too much of a distinction between teaching and praise. Much of praise is teaching, and much of teaching is praise. Just read a few Psalms and you get the idea. (The ELCE is about to publish a great article by John Kleinig on the subject; let me know if you'd be interested - it's next in the series started by Life by Drowning)

William Weedon said...


Good words, all of them. Yes, I'd be MOST interested in the article.

Dan Pharr said...

After 17 years in the ELCA I still haven't gotten used to sitting during the Agnus Dei...

Dan Pharr