Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.


Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.

Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar. For what that stuff in the banner means, scroll to the bottom of the sidebar.

15 October 2008

The Divine Office -- What's That and Why Bother?

Recently one of the Divine Offices came up elsewhere in my life, and I got thinking about the matter more generally and decided to post this about the whole subject. It is revised from something I originally posted in the context of the "O" antiphons during Advent, which we'll leave for Advent. Right now, the matter is -- hey, just give me Jesus, we're free aren't we, why bother with all this set stuff? Here's why all this set stuff is part of giving you Jesus, or rather, part of Jesus giving himself to you.

Pre Messiah, there were no particular set times for prayer for hundreds of years. Not that prayer wasn't prayed at set times in various places, but there was nothing normative about it. That came at the end of the Babylonian Captivity (the one that happened to the Jews, not the Church!) with the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the reconstruction of the Temple, ie the Second Temple. Ezra and the 120 Men established set times for prayer in essentially the form they are still used in the synagogue, which was adapted and continued by the church.

Established, not originated. These were not new, but were codified into three times of prayer during the day. These times were set to correspond to the three times of sacrifice in the Temple: morning (shaharit), afternoon (minha) and evening (arvit or maariv). On top of that, in Jewish tradition they trace themselves to the times of prayer Scripture records for each of the three great Patriarchs: Abraham in the morning (Gen19:27), Isaac at dusk (Gen24:63) and Jacob in the evening (Gen28:10).

This pattern was adapted by the Church in light of the Christ having come, and is the basis of the three major times of prayer in the Divine Office we know as Matins, Vespers and Compline. Just as in the Divine Service, or mass, we have essentially a Christian synagogue service followed by a Christian seder, a service of the word followed by the sacrament of the altar, so in the Divine Office we have:

1. Matins, a Christian shaharit going back through the history of the New Israel the church to the pre-Messianic morning synagogue service which Jesus and the Apostles knew and aligned with morning sacrifice in the Temple and on back to the morning prayer time of Abraham;
2. Vespers, a Christian minha going back through the church to the afternoon synagogue service known to Jesus and the Apostles and aligned with the afternoon sacrifice in the Temple and on back to the afternoon prayer time of Isaac;
3. Compline, a Christian arvit or maariv going back through the church to the evening synagogue service Jesus and the Apostles knew and aligned with the evening sacrifice in the Temple and on back to the evening prayer time of Jacob.

Where can you find this stuff? There's been all kinds of versions over time in both the Eastern and Western church. You hardly have to undertake some sort of monastic regimen. Any of the hymnals in use by our beloved synod contains material for use, sometimes combining Vespers and Compline into one. The Concordia Edition of the ESV from Concordia Publishing House has excellent short ones. Or, you can just follow what is set out for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Little Catechism!

Absolutely, not commanded by Scripture. But we Lutherans aren't an "If it ain't in Scripture we ain't doing it" crowd. Our Confessions are explicit -- though unfortunately sometimes our parishes aren't -- that we happily accept the observances and ceremonies that those who came before us in faith brought about and hand on to us, rejecting not what isn't in Scripture but only what contradicts it that crept in here and there over time.

And what a great gift has been handed to us! In the Divine Office as in the Divine Service we not only have a magnificent gift from those who came before us, but we take our place with them in the forward motion toward the final fulfillment of the promises of God, and do so in a vehicle that is itself an expression and product of the advent, the coming, the unfolding through all its points leading to that great and final Coming!!

09 October 2008

Tagged! -- Here Are My "Influences"

Father Hollywood has tagged me to respond to the following question -- What five people, past or present, inspire your spiritual life?? There's an additional rule, which is, being Lutherans, it is assumed that Jesus Christ and Martin Luther would be on the list. Which, in terms of direct influences not just on, but from, what I believe to-day, pretty well sums it up. My reading to-day is about 100% listed on the sidebar element "Book List". So the question really is, What five people, past or present, besides Jesus Christ and Martin Luther inspire your spiritual life? And my answer is not so much who has inspired its content, since they are assumed and not listed, but who got me ready, humanly speaking, to hear it.

1. Archbishop Fulton J Sheen.

Growing up in the pre-conciliar Roman Catholic Church, it was his weekly shows, which I never missed, that brought a greater depth and clarity to what I was taught in school in the Baltimore Catechism series. This was absolutely the foundation of my faith. In later years, I read some of his books, most notably "Life of Christ", which I have seen in Lutheran parish and pastor libraries.

2. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ.

Before the groaning starts, let me mention I first heard of him in one of Bishop Sheen's telecasts, who spoke approvingly of him, surprise, surprise. The Divine Milieu, particularly, was of great influence in seeing redemption and salvation inclusive of all creation, and far from being the jumping off place to heterodoxy that he was for some, to me reinforced the pre-conciliar faith.

3. Godfrey Diekmann, OSB.

The only one of the five I knew personally. He was a peritus at Vatican II and one of the leading lights for "reform", liturgical and otherwise. Though him and those around him I got to see "the changes in the church" from the inside out, to know them as those who advocated them, what I am saying, formed them, knew them. I agreed with him on absolutely nothing, but I can find no better description of him than the one Father Hollywood wrote for Pastor Marquart: "Aristocratic in bearing, devout in faith, articulate in discourse, and yet genuinely humble and ever ready to help anyone in need, he was completely fluent in several languages and was gifted in rhetoric. He brought a kindness and warmth to his teaching, which was always designed to make the material accessible to his students - no matter how difficult the subject matter. He was a true gentleman, churchman, scholar, educator, and above all, a genuine pastor." If, at the Heavenly Table, I have a choice for Communion distributors, I shall be in his line.

4. Rabbi J.H. Hertz.

Joseph Herman Hertz was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire from 1913 until his death 14 January 1946. His "Pentateuch and Haftorahs" -- the Torah portions for each Sabbath and festival, with each's associated portion from (usually) the Prophets, along with his extensive notes and essays, was the bedrock for my devotional life during most of the time I was a Righteous of the Nations, ie, not a convert to Judaism but a Gentile who acknowledged the God of Israel and lived by the Noahide Law incumbent on all mankind (which, according to the Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts, it still is). His commentary exposed, years before time of the particular proponents I read in theology in college, the utter baselessness of the historical-critical school and method. And, understanding the Scripture from a Hebrew perspective did more than any Christian apologetics to allow me to see Jesus was indeed the Christ.

5. Friedrich Nietzsche/Richard Wagner.

Yeah I know, that's two guys, but as Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, said himself, the two are forever bound to-gether. Though hijacked in support of things grossly at odds with what they had to say, as Nietzsche himself foresaw they would be, the two represent a re-introduction into modernity through new art forms of the Greek classical concept arete, which may be rendered excellence, not at all of the kind meant in "mission statements" littering modernity now. For a completely different stumbling across arete in modernity, try Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".

Honourable Mention, that being the rest of the guys who belong on the list if the number weren't limited to five.

Conrad Diekmann, OSB, brother of the better-known Godfrey, whose World Lit I was the greatest class of my life, as the ancient Greek tragedians and comedians (that's when a comedian was someone who wrote non-tragic plays, not someone who mugs in front of the camera to get you to laugh) and Homer came to life. His course on haiku was great too.

Gerard Farrell, OSB, an Eastman School of Music graduate who taught us music from the venerable Eastman Series, which is part-writing based on the Bach (the "Fifth Evangelist" and I sometimes think the best Lutheran I ever read, so to speak) chorales, which taught me to hear music as a linear event in time, making sense out of pretty much any music, and would lead to the next named person. He was also director of the abbey schola cantorum in which I sang, until he was removed and exiled in the pogroms following the Revolution, er, Vatican II.

Heinrich Schenker, the only real music theorist in centuries -- and who like Nietzsche and Wagner has been hijacked in support of things he did not say, though stuff about "structural levels" boring the hell out of college music students is not likely to cause the damage the hijacking of Nietzsche and Wagner has, though it may cost an academic his job here and there.

Lao Tsu, whose Tao-Te-Ching, if there is no revelation, is the highest to which Man can reach.

The Confessional Lutheran Blogosphere, especially the blogs listed on my sidebar element "Lutheran Blogs", who at first showed me that, whatever else there may be in LCMS, it is where Lutherans such as myself are too in greatest numbers, and now continue to feed me. In particular, the blogs by Pastors Weedon, Beane and Snyder.

That's it. I'd have put BB King, the other Luther in my life, Allison, and Modern Jazz Quartet in there but they didn't ask about music. I don't know who to tag either, since the ones I would think of tagging have already been tagged. So, if you want to be tagged, you're it!

07 October 2008

It's Fall -- Thanksgiving, Advent, What Happened to Sukkot?

Past Elder, the blog, commenced operations 22 February 2007. In my second year, I have taken to posting a few posts again, with revisions here and there, that relate to our cycle of observances of major parts of our faith in the church year, especially as they relate to the fulfillment of the cycle of observances in the Jewish calendar. Fall is unique -- where the Jewish calendar is full of stuff in Fall, the Christian church calendar has nothing! What's up with that? Here's the 2008 version of my post about it.

In my posts about Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost, I mentioned that the Christian pattern of yearly worship derives from the Jewish one. And, that this is precisely what one would expect if the Messiah had come and fulfilled the Law.

In the religion God delivered to the Jews in the Old Testament, he commands three major festivals: Pesach or Passover; Shavuot or Pentecost, also called Weeks; Sukkot, called Tabernacles or Booths. In addition to Sukkot in the Fall there is also Rosh Ha-Shana or New Years (actually one of several new years, there being a new year for trees and a new year for kings which begins the year in terms of the festivals) and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year.

We saw Passover transformed by Christ at the Last Supper into what we call Holy Communion, and ratified by his Death and Resurrection which we celebrate as an event in time on Good Friday and Easter. Then we saw God himself count the commanded Omer and transform the celebration of the giving of the Law at Sinai at Pentecost by the giving of the promised Holy Spirit to the Apostles, which we celebrate as an event in time on the day also called Pentecost. Then, what -- the whole thing seems to fall apart!! Where's the transformed Rosh Ha-Shanah, where's the transformed Yom Kippur, where's the transformed Sukkoth, which begins 15 Tishrei in the Jewish calendar, falling this year (2008) at sunset, the start of the Jewish day, 13 October?

Nowhere, it seems. The Christian calendar is entirely absent of such things. Fall, full of observances in Judaism, comes and goes with nothing until the secular Thanksgiving and then Advent which is a time of preparation for Christmas. So does the parallel fall apart here, or perhaps show itself to be irrelevant anyway if it exists at all? Just give me Jesus, man.

No. Consider how Jesus gives himself. Christ has himself become our atonement, that to which the Day of Atonement led. The "Day of Atonement" is the historical Good Friday, once for all. Rosh Ha-Shanah too, the day on which creation was completed and God judges each person for the coming year, has been fulfilled in God's having re-created lost Man by making justification possible because of the merit of Christ's sacrifice. That is how we are now inscribed, not just for the coming year but for eternity. They are absent because they have served their purpose and been fulfilled.

And what of Sukkot? At Sukkot, one lives, or at least takes one's meals, in a temporary structure called a sukkah in Hebrew -- a booth, a tabernacle, not in one's actual home. This is to remember the passage of the people after the Passover and Pentecost to the Promised Land. Zechariah (14:16-19) predicts that in the time of the Messiah the feast will be observed not just by Jews but by all humanity coming to Jerusalem for its observance. That would be a pretty big event. It ain't happening. And there isn't even some sort of transformed Sukkoth in the Christian calendar. So what is the deal here?

Consider. Christ is our Passover in whose blood we are washed and made clean, and the Holy Spirit has empowered the spread of this Good News beginning on that Pentecost recorded in Acts. But the end of the story, unlike the arrival in the Promised Land, has not happened. The real Promised Land is not a piece of geography but heaven itself, the ultimate Jerusalem. So, there cannot be a Christian Sukkoth because we are still in our booths, as it were, not in our permanent homes, still on our pilgimage to the Promised Land, and what Zechariah saw is happening as "the nations", all people, join in this journey given first to the Jews and then to all Man, the Gentiles. Our Sukkot is our life right now, in our "booths" or temporary homes on our way to heaven. So this feast awaits its transformation, and that is why it is absent. The first two of the "pilgrimage festivals", the Shalosh Regalim, have been transformed, into the basis of not just our calendar but our life and faith itself, but the third will be heaven itself, toward which we journey as we live in our booths here on the way.

While we do not, therefore, have a certain observance of a transformed Sukkot in our calendar, being in our booths presently, we do have something of it as we go. Our nation, and others too, have a secular, national day of Thanksgivng at the end of harvest time, preserving that aspect of thankfulness for our earthly ingathering of the fruits of our labour. And in the final weeks of the Sundays after Trinity, we focus on the End Times in our readings, the great ingathering that will be for all nations when our Sukkoth here is ended, not just at death personally but finally at the Last Day.

At my wife's funeral, the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1997, the pastor concluded the sermon by saying: A few days ago most of us celebrated a thanksgiving that lasted one day, but Nancy began one that lasts an eternity.

So is the promise to us all. And that's what happened to Sukkot.