30 January 2012

Suggestion for the Ash Wednesday Liturgy

So, in the LW Agenda, after the address and opening litany for Ash Wednesday, the rubrics direct you to continue with the OT reading - in other words, the address and litany replace the entrance rite entirely.

Along comes LSB Altar Book, and now in addition to the address and opening litany, the rubrics specifically permit the distribution of ashes (either as the people enter or after the opening litany).  But then things get confusing:

"After all have received the ashes, the service continues with the Service of Confession and Absolution in the Divine Service, or with the rite of Corporate Confession and Absolution." (p. 486)  The rationale for the Confession and Absolution p. 483 with rubric 3:  "Ashes are a sign of mortality and death.  Therefore, the imposition of ashes should be followed by the rite of Confession and Absolution."

Absolutely nothing is said about anything else in the Entrance Rite.  The assumption seems to be that following Confession and Absolution for whichever Divine Service we'd continue with Introit, Kyrie, salutation and collect.

Yet we DO note in the rubrics for Corporate Confession and Absolution (p. 422, rubric 3):  "This rite may also replace the preparation rite of the Divine Service.  Following this rite, the service would continue at the Introit/Entrance Hymn or Salutation and Collect of the Day. *This is particularly appropriate in Lent, and is suggested in the order for Ash Wednesday.*"

Well, it's not suggested there no matter what the rubric says, but the fact that it is suggested HERE leads me to ask: doesn't it make sense if you insist on doing Confession and Absolution immediately after the Ashes, to move directly to salutation and collect?  Or even to the OT reading?  The litany has already covered the "Kyrie" if you will and it concludes with a collect.  And an "entrance" - either Introit or Entrance Hymn makes little sense so late in the service (I mean, in our place, it takes about 20 minutes before the opening litany and distribution of ashes if finished - let alone adding to it a Confession and Absolution!).

Perhaps also of import is the rubric on p. 410 (#4) that "the Litany may serve as an Entrance Rite in the Divine Service, replacing the Introit, Kyrie, and Hymn of Praise."  If that holds for "THE Litany" why not for the Ash Wednesday litany (as it once did in LW)?

I'd posted all the above over on ALPB and Pr. Zimmerman wrote me to inform me of his practice which makes the absolute most sense of out of the confusing rubrics.  Here's his practice:

Opening Hymn
Opening Sentences
Lenten Address (from LSB Altar Book)
Salutation and Collect of the Day
Holy Gospel
Hymn of Day
Service of Ashes:  The Litany, Blessing of Ashes, Imposition of Ashes, Declaration of Grace
Offering Received
and then Service of the Sacrament as usual.

I like his immensely because it is clear, it simplifies the service, it gives you the opportunity to preach upon the practice before inviting folks up for the ashes, and it avoids the needless repetitions (Western liturgy does NOT like repetition in general!) of the Litany at the beginning and then the Prayer of the Church following the sermon.  It totally preserves the rubrics' concern that some form of declaration of grace be spoken after the ashes are distributed.  I think it's the best solution I've yet seen to the rather confusing rubrics in Lutheran Service Book on this matter.

One more matter of note - I also appreciate Pr. Mozolak's practice of reminding those who receive the ashes, not only that they are dust and to dust they shall return, but that they are Christ's and to Christ they shall return.  I'm not sure what to do with that yet, but I like it.  A lot.


Rev. J. Hayes said...

Where exactly would one find the "Blessing of the Ashes"? The LSB Agenda has rites of blessing for everything under the sun but ashes.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thanks for this good discussion, and for these helpful comments and suggestions, Pr. Weedon.

At Emmaus, I've generally had the imposition of ashes, followed by corporate confession (with individual absolution at the altar), in the morning of Ash Wednesday. For the sake of those who aren't able to come in the morning, I've also offered the same opportunity in the early evening, but still prior to the Divine Service. For the Divine Service, then, we've begun with the usual rites of preparation, etc.

I have liked having the imposition of ashes at the beginning of the day, marking the day of penitence and fasting. But I would welcome your thoughts on that, as well.

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

I spent quite a while with a Lutheran STM student and a Lutheran pastor "lutheranizing" the Bamberg version of the blessing of ashes. I can give you what we came up with, but it is essentially a combination and correction of various English translation of the Roman Missal. It may have too much correction, or too little. Pr. Peters uses a gently corrected version of one from the English Missal, I think it was.

Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman said...

Pr. Hayes:

I've used two different "Blessing of the Ashes" in my parishes, but I had to go searching for them. The first is from the Lutheran Church in Australia, the second is from the Church of England's Common Worship materials. (I know, looking at the Church of England is potentially fraught with danger....)

(LCAus Form): "May these ashes be for us a sign of our mortality and penitence, and a reminder that we receive eternal life by God's gift alone, through Jesus Christ our Saviour."

(COE Form): "God our Father, You create us from the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be for us a sign of our penitence and a symbol of our mortality; for it is by Your grace alone that we receive eternal life in Jesus Christ our Saviour."

You will note the similarities in both blessings. I would assume that both ultimately have their source in an earlier common text. Perhaps it is from the English Missal to which Mr. Carver alludes to in his post.

I believe that both blessings convey the true purpose of using ashes: the ashes are visible sign of our repentance and a physical reminder of mortality, yet the use of them is not to attain merit before God, since life everlasting is bestowed only through the gracious acts of Christ's work for us.

Rev. J. Hayes said...

Thank you all.

Christopher Esget said...

Very helpful, Pr Weedon.

ToddPeperkorn said...

By "Lenten Address" do you mean the Ash Wednesday Address?

William Weedon said...