05 December 2012

Evening Prayer in Advent

I love the quiet and the peace of this liturgy. From the Phos Hilaron to the Magnificat, from Psalm 141 to the great Ektenia litany. Yet it is the Collect of Peace itself which I think expresses the very heart of the vesperal prayer of Christ's Church.

I am always struck by what it doesn't ask. It doesn't ask to be delivered from our enemies. Rather, to be delivered from the fear of our enemies. The peace for which we pray doesn't come from an external fix that would leave us no longer fretting only so long as the external fix held (and no external fix holds for very long in this sad and fallen age). It comes rather from the fretting being removed from our own hearts, so that we no longer fear our enemies (meaning, of course, those who hate us, not vice-versa - we're not given that "luxury").

So as Christians used this prayer in the evening in the days of the Vikings, they admitted it wasn't the terrorist marauding at night and bringing havoc upon them that was the problem; the problem was that their heart would fear that. So they prayed for deliverance from the fear of their enemies so that their hearts could be SET on the obedience to God's commandments: to love all, especially those who mistreat and abuse us, and to trust always in Him whose love for us works...finally, fully, lastly...to our good, for He is indeed a great Lover of Mankind!


Unknown said...

You do realize, right, that you are essentially praying a truncated version of the Orthodox Vespers service, correct? Why was this included in the LSB? It's eastern rite, not western rite. The conflation of rites really serves no purpose except to confuse parishioners.-Chris

William Weedon said...

Yes, it owes a lot to the Eastern service, but the Magnificat at Vespers is Western, as is the Collect for Peace on which I was commenting. It actually confuses no one; it is a most beloved service in many parishes. I'm sorry you are so critical toward anything Lutherans are and do, Chris. I'm afraid it does not reflect well on your current communion. Nevertheless, a blessed Advent to you and your family!

William Weedon said...

Oh, and both east and west use Psalm 141 (though in the West it was traditionally only the verse "Let my prayer...").

David Garner said...

I would take the opposite approach. I think the Eastern Rite has a lot to recommend itself to Western Christians, and any exposure you can get to it is good exposure as far as I am concerned. That's not to denigrate the Western Rite, just to say that the Eastern Rite has a rich theological depth to it that makes it worth learning about (I'd say the same to Eastern Christians who had no exposure to the Western Mass, FWIW).

I do see the concern with confusion, but I seriously doubt very many Lutherans would be confused. Most probably don't bother to learn what is in their liturgies or why, and the well catechized will presumably also be catechized to know why the LSB "borrowed" these elements for the Evening Prayer service. I suppose what it boils down to for me is Lutherans don't use a historic Western Mass in the first place, they use a modified Western Mass. The reason is based on Lutheran theology. I don't see the difference between that and using portions of our Vespers service to form an Evening Prayer service. Isn't removing the Eucharistic prayer, or communing in both kinds, or having the laity speak the conclusion to the Lord's Prayer ("for Thine is the Kingdom...."), or singing in key just as confusing?

Okay, that last example was a joke.

Anyway, it seems to me an argument against Lutherans "borrowing" liturgical forms is logically an argument against Lutheranism. Which rite is borrowed seems to be tangential to me. I suppose one could argue against it based on a hyper-strict notion of catholicity, but I think that is a false view of Lutheran theology. Lutherans are properly more concerned with catholicity through orderly uniformity than catholicity through unchanged liturgies from the 16th century. So once you allow that modification is proper, it doesn't seem to matter to me which rite is modified, so long as it is orderly and is used in a trans-parishional way.

David Garner said...

By the way, I don't know if the line in your last sentence is in the Evening Prayer service or not, but I chose that dismissal from our services as the title for my blog because it says so much in a short sentence. "For He is good and loves mankind" are the words we hear as we are dismissed from any service in the Orthodox Church. If Lutherans are now hearing that as well, I'm doubly pleased to have you "borrow" from our services. Not because Lutherans don't hear that in other ways, but because it brings me such joy to hear it every time we gather.

William Weedon said...


We obviously do not see ourselves as "borrowing" the Western rite, as though it were not legitimately our own prayer. But we do recognize that across the long history of the liturgy "borrowing" from East and West is rather a constant feature. The great liturgical families are not sealed off from each other. The history is far, far more fluid than folks are comfortable with who dream that the current form of any given rite is identical with its form in the earliest centuries. Such a basic thing as the Our Father was not originally (apparently) in the Roman Mass and when St. Gregory introduced it, he was accused of (ta da!) introducing an Eastern practice. The study of the actual practices leaves one in awe at the way that the living church shapes the details of the rite while ever preserving the sound structure on which the details hang.

Unknown said...

Fr. Weedon,

Why not simply be Western? That is the inheritance of the Lutheran church. Why not stick with it? The Eastern ethos is different from the Western especially in how it prays.

No one is confused? That's interesting. How many people even knew the hymn Φως Ιλαρον before it was put in the LSB or Κυριε, εκεκραξα προς σε? I doubt more than a couple.

And, as usual, you exaggerate my criticism. I will applaud you for what you do right and call you out for what I think wrong. I simply see NO reason to keep borrowing from other traditions. I also criticize the LSB for having 5 different DIvine Liturgies. I've criticized the ELCAs for having more than 10. Why have 5 or 10? What's wrong with the one divine liturgy which has been passed down.

And, my criticism, like it or not, reflects badly or well solely on my own self (solo me, to use the Latin). How dare you judge my compatriots based on what I do!-Chris

William Weedon said...


The Phos Hilaron was already in TLH as a hymn - #101, if I recall correctly. It's a common possession of the entire church and not merely of the east.

As I said, you cannot hermetically seal up the rites from one another. They borrow. They always have. Hence we have Roman parishes that sing Luther's hymns. That's not a problem! We have Anglicans borrowing Luther's revision of the Litany. We have all the Western churches singing "Gloria in excelsis" which was originally an Eastern hymn for Matins. The list goes on and on. It's far, far more fluid than your words suggest.

Additionally, there is this odd bleed over from the Mass to the Offices and vice-versa. Hymns were originally restricted to the Office, but now throughout the length and breadth of the West they are sung in the Mass. According to some (though I think it is an ahistorical legend) the Eastern liturgy of the presanctified came from the West. Back and forth.

And the theological rationale is simple: "all things are yours" the Apostle proclaimed because Christ is ours. All that is truly His and that bears witness to Him belongs to all who have been baptized into His name.

Brian P Westgate said...

What is the historical background to Morning/Evening Prayer? Did they come from LBW? I'm really not sure why we need them.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Westgate,

Yes, they come from LBW. We don't "need" Evening Prayer in the sense that we have Vespers, but I do suspect that among our people the favorites shake out like this:

Matins preferred to Morning Prayer
Evening Payer preferred to Vespers

At least that has been my experience.

William Weedon said...

Some good words that a friend, The Traveler, tried to post but was defeated by the Internet demons:

I have right next to me, the Greek/English Hymnal containing St. John Chrysostom's liturgy. I have also "been there, done that." It was gorgeous, as I like to think how I conduct our "Western Rite" is also gorgeous (leaking a little professional pride, there). My flock does like the chasubles and the chanting and the Sacrament every week. I know the Orthodox (Fr. Fenton being merely one of many) have gotten matters moving on using the Western Rite and a consolidation of Orthodoxy in North America, although very slowly. I don't know if you know the Orthodox Father Joseph Huneycutt of Houston - but I have spoken with him, and read his stuff. He is unabashedly Orthodox as you and I are unabashedly Lutheran, but there is a commonality that leaks through in everything.

I am not speaking to the "Happy-Clappers" as Kurt Marquart called the theologically bankrupt evangelicals (and, sad to say, some Lutherans). The "Catholic" tradition - East, Lutheran, Roman and Anglican, preserve and enlighten the essential matters of the Christ and blessed salvation (despite Rome's fides caritate formata), and whether Evening Prayer is somehow Eastern or Western or Southwestern Swahili-land, is of no matter to me. Does it express that which the Church of all ages (catholic) has expressed? Is Christ revealed, and reveled in - by word and chant and song? Does the edification of the Holy Saints of the Church and my little flock occur? Are those not really the questions to ask, rather than the speculations some exhibit in the comment section, or those who wish to be so pure that Jesus might get excommunicated from His own Church?

Yeah, that was a bit of an over-statement, but not by much. Had I taken this call and found LBW in the pew racks, could I do right anyway? Of course! As would you, or any pastor worth his salt. LBS would become a goal, but truth be known, at least on my part, I really liked LW. LSB was an effort to appeal to the TLH-er's and the LW-er's, and I confess, I really do like LSB. But LW was simply "fun" to use.

On the other hand, someone I know advertised this [Walther's Hymnal], and I suspect it would be a whole bunch of fun to introduce that to my miniature flock.

Rambling, I know, and I apologize. But, the Church in liturgical worship is far closer to unity than at most any other time, and rather than disparage that, as do some, I rejoice in it.

Brian P Westgate said...

I suppose the "need" question wasn't very good. Perhaps this is better: What's the history behind them? In other words, how/why did they come into being?

William Weedon said...

Fr. Westgate,

I think it would be safe to say it was a time when there was more than a bit of borrowing from the East (the West has periodically experienced such moments - the Mozarabic and Gallic rites did a fair bit too, no?). It's the time when the Roman recension of the Basil anaphora appears in the Missal, when the Baptismal rite in LBW looks like it was composed by someone more acquainted with Schmemann than Luther, when there was a drive to recapture what was thought of as the Patristic view of the liturgy. It had a bit of naiveté about it, no doubt. But it also recognized that liturgical treasures belong to the whole body of believers and that wasn't a bad thing. Also it was a time when liturgical scholars, looking at the office, realized how fluid that office was for centuries (East AND West) and that perhaps ignited a desire to return to a bit more flexibility. That's not exactly the word I want, but it will have to do. A focus upon the essentials and not the guarding of the details as though the details WERE the essentials, when the details had such a history of variance and the current details only a veneer of unbroken historicity.

Brian P Westgate said...

Well, now you've got me wishing we could go somewhere to attend a Lutheran Mozarabic or Gallic or Ambrosian Divine Liturgy! (Though as far as I know, nobody offers a Gallic Liturgy anymore . . .)

Fr. John said...

I must say, I've never quite understood the whole "Eastern vs Western" dichotomy. It seems to me that the far more relevant questions are "Is this doctrine true?" and "Is this practice helpful?"

As an Orthodox Christian priest, I disagree with, for example, a number of the teachings of Rome, not because "they are Western," but because I believe them to be false teachings.

As Orthodox, we don't import different hymns or spiritual practices into our liturgy, because the liturgy isn't subject to local revision at personal discretion. Lutheran pastors have a lot more leeway in terms of making those choices.

If, Chris, we believe our theology to be true and our hymns to be beautiful, why would we object to someone else (even a "Western" person :-)), using them? Personally, it makes me happy.

Blessed advent, Pastor!

In Christ,
Fr. John

David Garner said...

Pastor Weedon,

Sorry to be late getting back to this. I didn't mean to imply that the prayers are not properly yours -- quite the opposite. I don't think the Church "possesses" prayer or hymnody in the first place. My only point is that to the extent one has a problem with Lutherans using (or whatever term works best here) liturgical rites from the Eastern Church, one should rightly have a similar problem with Lutherans using (or whatever) rites from the Western Church. There is no Lutheran rite that was not modified to conform to Lutheran theology. My point is simply that to whatever extent Lutherans have a Western inheritance, it is an inheritance that has been altered to conform to Lutheran theological understandings.

Much water is under the bridge since the Great Schism. And as your rightly note, there is no rite at all that has never been changed. As you are probably aware, we Orthodox have certain issues stemming from what some folks call the "Western Captivity of the Church." So we too have "borrowed," and in quite the same sense you have. The fact that we did not "borrow" our liturgical rites during that period doesn't change the fact that borrow we did. When something "borrowed" is bad, we should be concerned. Where it is good, we ought rejoice, especially when it is someone else borrowing from our own treasure. Who truly wants that treasure stored away and hoarded? I have heard Lutherans recount attending Roman Catholic services where "A Mighty Fortress" is used as a hymn. I have never, ever heard one say "how dare they!" To a person, they have always been very happy to hear that Rome has "borrowed" the hymn.

David Garner said...

I should have read all of the comments. Fr. John writes:

"If, Chris, we believe our theology to be true and our hymns to be beautiful, why would we object to someone else (even a "Western" person :-)), using them? Personally, it makes me happy."

Very pithy, and well said.

David Garner said...

With apologies for the thrice-posted comments, I should clarify that I do not have nearly the problem with the "Western Captivity" issues some of my brethren do. I raised the issue only to note that we all have certain things we use that are not strictly from our own toy box. As Fr. John noted, I think the question should be whether the doctrine expressed is true, not where the particular vehicle expressing the doctrine came from.

Unknown said...

A friend of mine once told me that everything that is good in Eastern Orthodoxy already belongs to Lutheranism.

I think he was right.