13 October 2009

On Variation in Text of the Ordinary

A comment was made yesterday at Octoberfest that I mostly agree with: it's a crying shame that we have various texts of the ordinary, which really result in differing liturgies, not "settings" as they are misnamed.

But it is worth noting that in one regard, this peculiarity of LSB is actually deeply imbedded in Lutheranism itself. From quite early on, the great rimed hymn paraphrases of the Ordinary were treated as full equals to the straight forward prose texts (which mostly persisted in Latin, rather than German). If we were to drop for a visit to the Thomas Kirche in Bach's day, the Mass was held with great reverence and dignity. On the Sunday the good choir was at work, the Latin ordinary was sung: Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus... On the next Sunday the "b-level" choir led the singing of: Allein Gott in der Höhe sei Ehr. The Latin Gloria or the German Gloria, they were thought of. Similarly, and even more shockingly so, the Nicene Creed. In either case, the priest intoned the solemn "Credo in unum Deum" to be followed by the so-called "Patrem" - one week the actual text of the Nicene Creed (Patrem omnipotem etc.) and the next week Luther's paraphrase "Wir glauben all in einen Gott."

Some argue from this that Lutherans were free to substitute ANYTHING for the ordinary and thus the ordinary doesn't really exist. But that's precisely not the case. Rather, a distinctly limited set of chorales came to be regarded AS the Ordinary. The idea that you would have a Mass without singing Kyrie was unthinkable to them! But the Kyrie could be one of the troped Kyries from the Middle Ages (Chemnitz cites the Kyrie Fons Bonitatis as the clincher in setting forth the Church's confession of the Trinity in Loci Theologici), a straight Gregorian Kyrie (though usually reduced from nine to threefold), or Kyrie, Gott Vater!

Now, what they were doing, in their own minds, was providing a vernacular setting of the Latin ordinary, but doing so in rimed paraphrase and using the chorale as the musical idiom. What they were not doing was saying that you can use just any old text. The depth of this rimed paraphrase tradition is always before me here at St. Paul's, where the great bell is inscribed around with "Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr!" They didn't think of it as "just a paraphrase"; they thought of it AS the Gloria in Excelsis - the German version.

Thus, I believe that what the LSB did in part was to recognize this tradition as an authentic ascpect of our heritage (Divine Service, Setting Five) and one worth preserving; and also attempt a similar matter for English (Divine Service, Setting Four). The intention of either of these is not to suggest that one can decide to toss the Kyrie or the Agnus. It was rather to say that the Church has various ways to sing these texts, and straight forward prose rendering is one of those ways, and will, I would think, always be the touchstone against which the authenticity of the rimed paraphrases should be demonstrated.

P.S. No, Terry, I'm not addressing the matters of DS I and II in the above, as you will no doubt note... The real crying shame is that *the prose versions* do not agree!!! Here my touchstone will always be the Common Service, Divine Service, Setting 3 because it is a more faithful rendering of the Latin text. Note the apocopation in the Gloria in Exclesis and the paraphrasing of Lord of Sabaoth or hosts with "God of power and might."

P.S.S. Studying Lutheran liturgy vs. Anglican liturgy is always instructive too - because the one thing that screams out from the pages is how preoccupied Lutheran liturgy was from the get go with MUSIC. And it from the music that you can see why we have the two different prose texts of the ordinary in LSB: the COW desired to preserve music that had become dear and loved to many of our parishes.


Anonymous said...

Exceedingly well put! Bravo! And just to add an additional historical note, to chime in (no pun intended) with your church bell's "Allein Gott. . ." inscription.

The chorale mass tradition was SO ingrained in the minds of our Saxon LCMS father, that this was virtually ALL they knew in practice for the Kyrie, Gloria, and Credo portions of the service. You see this in the Kirchenagende of 1856 and all subsequent LCMS German Agendas. This suggests a couple of things . . .

1) that the Credo was virtually never spoken in Divine Service, but rather sung to Luther's "Wir glauben All . . ."

2) that when the English Common Service of 1888 came along, it was a WAY different service than what the German LCMS had been used to. This may partially help to explain why there was such worship chaos in the worship transition from German to English.



William Weedon said...

Amen, Jon. And the unacknowledged history of the Saxon service *in English* (thanks to Crull). You can pick up darned near any standard history of liturgy for the Synod and it is as though it never existed, yet it preceded the Common Service by some five years, and persisted right up to the publication of The Lutheran Hymnal in our official Agendas. Stuff you know, I realize, but that most folks simply don't. It's sad. The history needs to be written again and the Saxon heritage finally acknowledged.

Tapani Simojoki said...

Pastor W, aren't you an expert on the Swedish Mass? Until very recently, vestiges of it still remained in Sweden and (even more recently) in Finland.

One thing that I like in it, and have missed in the many years of my exile, is the combination of the two traditions. You have both the prose and the chorales. So you are likely to have the Kyrie and Gloria, for example, but perhaps followed by a hymn to the Trinity; a Gradual hymn but the Nicene Creed. Etc.

One of the positive consequences is that in a normal communion service, you sing six or seven hymns as well as (at least the majority of) the ordinary of the mass. Best of both worlds. And if you have a lot of communicants, that could go up to eight or nine. At the moment, we have far too few opportunities to sing hymns in the Divine Service.

Oh, and the Sanctus after the verba, which was Luther's one genuine liturgical innovation, and an absolutely brilliant one at that. Bring it back!

Ooooh... I can feel another hymnal revision coming on. Better take some Aspirin.

William Weedon said...


Did you know that Dr. Lee Maxwell and I suggested such many years ago? We had a paper out on it that suggested the classical Swedish ordering (and Luther's from FM) was actually desirable because of how clearly it confessed. Dr. Quill included our suggestion in his book *The Impact of the LIturgical Movement on American Lutheranism.* But it only made it vestigially into LSB - in DS 4 you can see something of the old Swedish prayer in the Preface, but the ordering of Sanctus falling after the Verba was maintained only in DS 5.

Pastor Peters said...

it's a crying shame that we have various texts of the ordinary, which really result in differing liturgies, not "settings" as they are misnamed...

Well yes and no... the absolute uniformity of texts certainly was not achieved until probably Trent in Rome and never in Lutheranism...

But... why is this such a crying shame... I mean in comparison to what is happening in parishes called Lutheran on the signboard, I would welcome the limited diversity of texts and music that fall within the realm of almost any of the published books of the LCMS going back to whenever...

It sometimes troubles me that we lament the lack of absolute uniformity in text (and some in music) while missing the elephant in the room... Such focus often distorts the intention of those who love and promote the liturgy and makes us sound ominous and foreboding -- the definitive bad guys in the debate... Just a thought...

William Weedon said...

You get no argument from me on that basically, Fr. Peters, but it is a shame that when I say:

The Lord be with you.

The people HAVE to look down to figure out whether to say:

And also with you.


And with thy spirit.


And with your spirit.


Past Elder said...

A "Latin" gloria and a "German" gloria remains a gloria, and the situation is not at all analogous to a gloria or some other song in praise of God. Likewise the credo etc. To read this as an excuse for our present situation misunderstands both.

Anonymous said...

Why is it ok for "Pope Martin" to make his own home-made liturgy (DS-V) when it isn't ok for Lutheran pastors to do so today?

William Weedon said...


Dr. Luther was never called to sit upon the cathedra in St. John's Lateran. The fact that LSB contains an order in which a living Lutheran pastor offered hymn paraphrases of the same ordinary shows that hymn paraphrases still have their place in Lutheranism, even modern ones, but they remain paraphrases *of the Ordinary* and rather like Dr. Luther's they were accepted by a wider body and used beyond a single parish.

IggyAntiochus said...

I am with you on the Common Service being the more faithful translation of the prose text.

I try not to think about it when I am singing the Gloria from DS1 and DS2!

I favored a new musical setting with an updated, faithful translation of the texts. I suppose I need to wait for the next hymnal for that, or brush up on my high school Latin and start translating from scratch!

I don't mind DS4, but the three-fold form of the Agnus Dei is hidden, as it is only 2 stanzas.

Anonymous said...

(I hope this is related.)

I've noticed in Bach's Mass in B minor that there are changes in the texts. The only one I've noticed is in the Sanctus. Most hymnals use the older "gloria tua" [eg. ELH pgs. 51, 76, 100] in the second person, but Bach uses the third person "gloria ejus."

Mendelssohn (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvsB7IP2WGQ) also uses the third person (or so the English translation I sang did) "Ev'ry nation proclaims His glorious praise."

Luther uses the third person [ELH 40]: "Behold His glory filleth all the earth!"

Why is this?