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.


VDMA

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.

25 September 2009

St Michael's Day / Michaelmas, 29 September 2009.

This was a pretty big day for centuries, and still is contained in our LCMS calendar. Phillip Melanchthon even wrote a poem for the day which became a hymn, "Lord God, To Thee We Give All Praise", or "Dicimus grates tibi summe rerum" in his Latin original, yes, Latin, which is hymn 254 in The Lutheran Hymnal, or, I suppose it won't hurt to say, 522 in LSB.

Here's why the big deal.

Michael is one of the angels, and is mentioned by name in three books of the Bible, Daniel, Jude and Revelation aka the Apocalypse.

In Daniel, Gabriel, another leading angel, tells Daniel that Michael is his helper in defending the Jews, this wrt Daniel's prayer that the Jews be able to return to Jerusalem (Daniel 10) and later (Daniel 12) Michael is again identified as he who stands up for "the sons of thy people", the Jews, who will do so in the final battle at the end of time. This is the only time he is mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible.

It is not the only time he appears, depending on who you listen to. Some say he is the "captain of the host of the Lord" in the Book of Josue, or Joshua, 5:13-15, but some say this cannot be since he accepted worship and only God can do that. So some then say the figure was actually a disguised appearance of God himself, and some say (like my historical-critical Scripture profs in college) that that is what "angels" are anyway, not separate beings but muted references due to piety for God himself so Man can stand the interaction.

Rabbinic tradition variously credits him with being the angel who rescued Abraham from Nimrod's furnace, who protected Sarah from being defiled as Abraham's sister as Abraham tried to protect her by calling his sister and not wife, who told Sarah she would have a son, who brought the ram provided by God for Abraham to substitute for that son Isaac in sacrifice, who was the angel who wrestled with Jacob, with being the angel who spoke to Moses in the burning bush and later taught Moses the Law, on and on, including things in writings not in the Hebrew Bible such as protecting Adam and Eve after the Fall and teaching him how to farm.

This role of protector and defender was passed on to the early Christian church, among so much else in Judaism, not just in these stories, but he is mentioned twice in the New Testament.

In the Letter of Jude, verse 9, he argues with Satan over Moses' body, also a Jewish theme, keeping the Moses' body hidden so reverence would be directed to God and not misplaced hero worship (saint veneration?) and in the Book of Revelation, or The Apocalypse, chapter 12, Michael is given a similar role in the last battle at the end of time as he had in the revolt of the angels in heaven at the beginning, as military leader of the forces of good.

There are many other legends of Michael's intervention on behalf of Christians in history, of which we will mention two as particularly noteworthy. He is said to have worked with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, and a celebration on 8 November became the main feast of St Michael in the Eastern Church. Also he is said to have appeared over the mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome to answer the prayers of Pope St Gregory the Great in 950 that a plague in Rome stop, after which the mausoleum, destroyed by the Visigoths and Goths but rebuilt as a papal fort and residence, was called Castel Sant'Angelo, Church of the Holy Angel, and still is to this day.

It was connected by a fortified covered passage, the Passeto di Borgo, to St Peter's Basilica by Pope Nicholas II (pope from 25 November 1277 to 22 August 1280), to provide an escape route for the popes, which turned out handy for Pope Clement VII.

There's a story. Clement had allied with French forces to offset the power of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession was presented, and Charles' army had defeated them in Italy. However, there was no money to pay the soldiers, and it is never ever a good idea to mess with military payroll then, now, or ever. In this case, the troops figured well hell, there's all these riches in Rome, let's go there and take them, which is exactly what they did, about wiping out the Swiss Guards on 5/6 May 1527, the "Sack of Rome". Clement made it out to Castel Sant'Angelo but became a prisoner there and eventually surrendered on 6 June.

Neither the HRE Charles nor Martin Luther approved of this, but it did have the practical effect of curbing papal power, with a lot of money and land changing hands, over the Holy Roman Empire. Luther saw Christ's providence in this, saying that the Emperor who persecuted the Lutheran Reformation for the Pope ends up himself having to destroy the Pope. Might just be something to that. To commemorate the fight put up by the Swiss Guards, new ones have their swearing-in on 6 May to this day.

The Passeto and Castel sant'Angelo still exist, the latter now as an Italian national museum, and has a HUGE statue of St Michael on top of it. Not surprisingly, so much intrigue having played out in it historically, it is the headquarters of the "Illuminati" in the fictional "Angel and Demons" by Dan Brown of da Vinci Code fame, now playing at your local theatres.

St Michael has thus become the patron of guardians of various kinds, from policemen to the sick. Western church writings speak of his feast from at least the 6th century, and other observances based on other appearances and legends arose elsewhere. But 29 September as the Feast of St Michael is among the oldest observances in the Western calendar.

We ain't done! Michaelmas has all sorts of stuff attached to it. For centuries, it was a holy day of obligation -- you gotta go to Mass. As the Germans were Christianised, St Michael took the place of Wotan, and you will find St Michael chapels in the mountains, previously sacred to Wotan, there to this day. Michaelmas is also one of the four Quarter Days in Mother England: Lady Day 25 March, Midsummer Day 24 June, Michaelmas 29 September, Christmas 25 December.

What the hell is a Quarter Day? These are four days roughly equivalent to the two equinoxes and two solstices, when business and legal dealings need to be settled -- rents and bills are due (the rent thing is still often followed in England), judges had to visit outlying areas to make sure no matters go on unresolved, servants and labourers are hired so employment isn't up in the air, stuff like that. This is big stuff, coming from the Magna Carta itself of 1215, when the barons secured against the king, John at the time, the principle that no-one's right to justice will be sold, denied, or delayed.

Ever gone to a job fair resume in hand to meet prospective employers? You're right in the tradition of Michaelmas! At harvest's end, on the day after Michaelmas labourers would assemble in the towns for just that purpose with a sign of the work they do in their hands to get employment for the next year. Such events came to be called Mop Fairs, from those seeking employment as maids showing up with a broom in hand, a resume to show the prospective employer what work they could do.

Pay your taxes due in April? You're right in the tradition of the Quarter Days! Hell, Lady Day was the first day of the calendar year until the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, and when taxes were due. The English tax year still starts on "Old" Lady Day, 6 April.

Oh btw, the lady in Lady Day is Jesus' mother Mary, and the day is more widely known as the Feast of the Annunciation, commemorating the announcement by Gabriel to Mary that she would bear Jesus, nine months before his birth 25 December, Julian refers to Julius Caesar who set the old calendar, and Gregorian refers to Pope St Gregory who modified it into what we use to-day.

In England, the modified more accurate Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752, and on 3 September in the old Julian Calendar it became 14 September in the new Gregorian calendar. Many were confused by this, thinking they had lost 11 days of their lives, leading to protests in the streets. Michaelmas was the first big deal to happen after the change, leading some to say that since we lost 11 days, Michaelmas is really 10 October in the new calendar, which is then "Old" Michaelmas Day.

A lot of the resistance to the Gregorian calendar came from it being done by a pope -- it was actually the work of Aloysius Lilius, and Gregory made it official 24 February 1582 in the papal bull "inter gravissimas", named as is the custom in many places from its first couple of words, which here mean "among the most serious" -- and changing to it was taken in many Protestant countries as a deference to papal power.

Michaelmas was also the start of winter curfew, which lasts until Shrove Tuesday, with bells being rung at 2100 hours to signal the curfew, which is literally lights out, "curfew" meaning "cover the fire", put out the household fires and lamps.

Michaelmas is also called Goose Day, goose is eaten for the meal, coming from the practice of those who couldn't pay their rent or bills on the Quarter Day offering a goose instead to the landlord. There's an old rhyme -- He who eats goose on Michaelmas Day, shan't money lack his debts to pay.

It also started the new term, Michaelmas term, at Oxford and Cambridge. Still does!

It is also the day when peasants on manors elected their new reeve. What the hell is a reeve? A serf elected by the other serfs to manage the land for the landowner nobleman, the lord. A reeve of an entire shire was a shire-reeve. What the hell is a shire? That's what counties were called before the Norman Conquest, county being the name of the land controlled by a count in continental Europe where the damn Normans came from. Bunch of old stuff lost in history? Got a sheriff in your county? It's exactly why the chief law enforcement officer of your county is called a sheriff, a contraction over time of shire reeve.

So there's stuff from this all around our modern life. And now, maybe, one more. Back to the legends about St Michael, one of them is, when he kicked Satan out of heaven, which was on 29 September story goes, Satan fell to earth and landed in a bunch of blackberry thorns, which totally ticked him off so he cursed the fruit of the bush, stomped on them, breathed fire on them, spat on them and just generally went nuts. This curse renews every Michaelmas Day, so, what ever you do, DO NOT pick or eat blackberries after Michaelmas!

Which in our age opens a whole new question -- if you have a Blackberry phone, can you use it after Michaelmas Day?

Aren't saint's days just a riot? A little bit of something real -- there really is a St Michael the Archangel and he really is the military commander of God's forces, stands ready with all the faithful angels to help and protect you, and will function as such on the End Time -- a whole lot of legend, leading to some pretty amazing history, both of which have left common elements large and small on life to-day.

24 September 2009

The Lutheran Study Bible.

My copy of The Lutheran Study Bible, or TLSB as it looks like will be its functional name, arrived yesterday, and I gotta tell ya, this is an absolutely amazing product! I would encourage anyone reading to go to the widget for it on the sidebar to the left and order it if you haven't already. It's just that good.

As to why it's that good, most of my favourite blogs have already reviewed it in some detail, so rather than go all over that again here, also go to the sidebar on the left, and click on the blogs in my "Daily Read Lutheran Blog List" where you will find excellent reviews.

I think for just reading the Bible, as distinct from study, I'll continue to use my Concordia ESV Deluxe Reference Edition, because the pages are mostly Bible text and are thicker and easier to turn. But for study and reference, wow, TLSB is just astoundingly good!

LCMS has its problems indeed, but if we can produce a study Bible like this, somewhere some of us are doing something right, and the people involved in producing this study Bible are definitely doing something right. Get it!

22 September 2009

Jonah / Jonas. 22 September 2009.

Jonas is great! Forget the belly of a whale stuff. How about a prophet that doesn't want to be a prophet, runs away so he won't have to be, but that doesn't work and he can't escape God, then goes ahead and is a prophet, then gets upset that it worked! Not the kind of guy you put in books that are supposed to be sacred, bellies of whales or no bellies of whales, unless you're not making this stuff up.

Jonah is not commonly commemorated in the Western church calendar, but our beloved synod LCMS does on 22 September, the same date as the Eastern church commemorates him (which can also be 5 October depending on whether you use the Julian or Gregorian calendar).

Here's the deal. God tells Jonas to go to Nineveh and tell them their city will be destroyed if they don't repent of their evil ways. What's the big deal about that? Well, Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, and Assyria is the country who wiped out ten of the twelve Jewish tribes, the Biblical Israel, in 722 BC so bad they're still called the "Lost Tribes of Israel".

Jonas doesn't want them to repent and be spared, he hates them and wants them destroyed. Why would God offer a chance to the people who wiped out ten of the twelve tribes he called out? Makes no sense, and Jonas wanted no part of it, so he takes off in the other direction by boat to Tarshish.

So God sends a big storm at sea, and the pagan sailors figure one of their gods must be mad at them for something. But God makes it so even their lot-casting shows it's not them, it's Jonas. They confront him and he admits it, saying their only hope is to throw him overboard, which they don't really want to do, but realising it's their only hope, do it.

Enter the whale. Well, big fish, the Bible says; it never says whale nor is it certain whether the fish is one of the ones existing, like maybe a whale, or one created by God for the purpose of Jonas. And the answer doesn't even matter. The point is, he is conveyed to land after three days, and goes to Nineveh and delivers God's message.

Then the real miracle in the book happens. They actually listen and repent! From the king on down, the whole nation repents, starts fasting and stuff like that. God sees this and averts the destruction, and Jonas is not happy about it. He goes out of the city and takes up a good vantage point to see the destruction. It doesn't come but God causes a plant to grow to give him some shade, then the next day has a worm take it down, and now Jonas is really mad at the whole deal, thinks God was gonna forgive them anyway and just wants God to kill him.

Then God gives him the lesson -- what are you all mad about? Upset that I didn't destroy Nineveh, and did destroy the plant? Well guess what, you didn't bring that plant about, I did, and if you're mad about a plant that wasn't even yours why should I not be concerned about a city of thousands of people who don't know right from wrong, and animals too? Get over yourself.

This short book teaches some of the most radical stuff in the Hebrew Bible. Most obviously, that God accepts repentance, but more than that, God accepts repentance from everyone, not just Jews with whom the covenant of the Law of Moses was made, but Gentiles too, all people. And more than that (which Christians typically miss) that this universal care of God should not be grudged by the people of the covenant to everyone else.

For which reason the Book of Jonah is read in its entirety on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, at the afternoon service, called minha, which in Christian usage became Vespers. The Torah portion for this service is Leviticus 18, a moral chapter about who you shall and shall not sleep with, and the haftorah, or related reading from the Prophets, is the Book of Jonah.

Holy crap, what's all that about? Isn't Jonah just about prefiguring the three days Jesus was in the tomb, isn't it all about Jesus and we can leave all this Jewish stuff behind? Well, that would be fine except Jesus didn't leave all this Jewish stuff behind, he fulfilled it, and if you don't know what it is, you won't likely get what the fulfillment is either.

Also part of the haftorah, read right after the Book of Jonah, is Micah 7:18-20. In Jonah, everybody acts better than the Jews -- the pagan sailors act better than Jonah, and the Assyrians actually repent whereas after prophet after prophet the Jews had not, had only superficially, had relapse after relapse.

On top of that, God doesn't even require the Assyrians to come under the Law of Moses or convert to anything, but simply adhere to the universal morality he set forth to all Man in the Seven Noahide Laws in Genesis 9 and ratified again in Acts 15, of which sexual morality, the subject of the Torah portion on Yom Kippur minha, is traditionally number the fourth.

Then Micah brings the focus to the people of the Covenant, not all Man, but the Jews. "Who is a God like unto Thee" is not in terms of a show of power, but of mercy, passing by the sins of the remnant of his heritage, whose "anger" is not of his nature but rather mercy in which he delights, and to which he will be faithful, casting sin as if into the depths of the sea, not to come back again as did the prophet Jonas but to stay there, even as was promised to Abraham the first Jew.

And so it came to pass in Jesus, like Jonas overcome by the sinfulness of Man whether under the covenant of the Law of Moses or the covenant with all Man under Noah (Noe), thrown into the depths for three days, and after being the full and final Day of Atonement on Good Friday came forth on Pascha with the message and the reality of repentance and forgiveness to all Man, not to be begrudged to any one.

And that's the sign of Jonah.

13 September 2009

Why I Am Not A TDP Or LSB User.

Introduction And Warm Up Act.

OK, right off the bat: The title of this post is a parody of Bertrand Russell's essay "Why I Am Not A Christian", published in 1927 with related essays in a book of the same name. My fondness for irony and parody in writing -- no doubt derived from quotation technique in Jazz improvisation, and bolstered by the sheer fun of it all in the writing style of Friedrich Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading -- sometimes leads those under the influence of stultified studies from tedious teachers who have made prose, well, prosaic, to misunderstand prose that is not "prosaic".

I also think the writers for Bugs Bunny were absolute geniuses, and my first Victor Borge concert changed my life, or at least my piano playing. Call it Borge blogging.

Perhaps I will expand on all that in a future post, possibly titled "Why I Post Such Good Posts". Oh Judas in the scriptorum, there is is again -- a parody of a section title from Nietzsche's Ecce Homo called "Why I Write Such Good Books", the irony being that such a post would not be on why I think my posts are good.

But now to the present matter. The reason for the Russell parody in the title of this post is that, among a good many of those with whom I agree on pretty much everything else about what we unfortunately have to call these days "confessional Lutheranism" to distinguish it from the non-Lutheran Lutheranisms that abound, not using Treasury of Daily Prayer (TDP) and/or Lutheran Service Book (LSB), while it may not call into question one's Christianity, does call into question one's grounding in confessional Lutheranism, particularly as these two books are often rallying points for the cause of confessional Lutheranism. Blows your street cred.

Damn, there it is again -- a long convoluted sentence in standard English followed by a short one in colloquial English; fun to write, I do it a lot. Also longer paragraphs in standard English followed by short ones in colloquial English, which this will no longer be if I don't stop now. But I digress. Now I continue.

What is "Vatican II For Lutherans"?

Why I am not a TDP or LSB user is summed up in the phrase I use a lot "Vatican II For Lutherans". What it is that is summed up in the phrase has not always come across on the blogs. Here is what it does not mean: the Divine Service and the Divine Office as found in LSB and TDP are just rehashes of the novus ordo that came out of Vatican II.

Now, some, not all, some of it in fact is. There is a lectionary and church year calendar in LSB and calendar in TDP that derive from, and would not exist without, the three-year lectionary and revised church calendar of the novus ordo of Vatican II. Vatican II For Lutherans, regarding the lectionary, took the following path: it begins with the Ordo lectionem missae of Vatican II produced in 1969 and taking effect in 1970, then in 1983 several groups of non-Catholic churches and the RCC itself produced the Revised Common Lectionary, which after a trial period was published in 1994, which in turn has been slightly modified by many churches for their particular use, including our beloved synod the LCMS.

Well Judas H Priest on a committee, what's so wrong with that? Ain't no lectionaries and church year calendars in Scripture! We're free! Just give me Jesus, man, and don't trample on my Christian Freedom with all this crap. Now, if you're revving up for a less colloquial audience, you will want to change "crap" to "adiaphora" to refer to non-essentials it's best not to get all that caught up in lest you lose sight of the essentials -- "indifferent things" literally from the Greek.

The Original Adiaphora.

Here's what's wrong with that. For starters, "adiaphora" is not Greek for "doesn't matter" or "who cares". It actually isn't even a Christian concept. It comes from the Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece. "Stoic" itself has come to mean "indifferent" in popular usage, but that isn't what either stoic or indifferent is at all. The Stoics' main concern was how to live so that your inner life is not dictated by what happens to you in the external world. They saw the world as a matter of reason, physics and ethics. These were the main things in life. They saw the study of them as the way to avoid the errors in reason which lead to disruptive and destructive emotions that make you miserable over what happens in life when in fact it may only be what you think is happening in life.

This is not anti-emotion; rather, it was to free one from destructive emotions based on incorrect judgements so one could enjoy emotions associated with well-being and peace of mind having corrected one's judgements by reason and brought them into alignment with reality, the totality of which is God.

Man, even the word for peace of mind has gotten all twisted around on this "indifferent" thing. The word for peace of mind was apatheia, yup, the ancestor of our word "apathy" and didn't mean apathy in our sense at all, but rather being free of pathos (plural pathe), the destructive emotions resulting from incorrect perceptions, and also propathos or pure instinctual reactions, to enjoy the eupathos (plural eupatheia) emotions that come from perceptions that align with reality. A-pathetic is not indifference but being free of destructive emotions whose opposite is eu-pathetic or constructive emotions.

So what was adiaphora? Those things that are not part of reason, physics and ethics and are not in and of themselves destructive or constructive but could go either way depending on how you're doing with what is part of reason, physics and ethics in getting free of pathos and enjoying eupathos -- like getting rich, neither good nor bad in itself, but can go bad in a person who is, well, pathetic, literally, or go for good in a person who is a-pathetic in the literal sense above.

How The Idea of Christian Adiaphora Started.

It's easy to see how all this could be used by Christians. The term "logos" itself is the biggest thing, starting from Heraclitus (whom Nietzsche btw regarded as the only philosopher worth reading) who used it to denote the fundamental order of the universe, then became the root of our word logic as the idea of rational speaking in the Sophists and Aristotle, but with the Stoics became the divine that is immanent, present throughout the whole universe, which Philo took into Jewish thought, then become theos, God, himself and Jesus as the Word (logos) of God in St John and early Christian apologists.

Both Stoicism and Christianity too emphasised a progress from the passions of the world to something clouded by those passions (God as creator and an afterlife though not being Stoic ideas, lest it be thought I am saying Christianity is just Stoicism with Jesus; for that matter the logos thing does not mean that either, Arius getting carried away with the idea that it did and the church had to define how it didn't at Nicea).

Christian concern about adiaphora is often held to begin with St Paul's answer in First Corinthians chapter 8 to the question of whether one can or cannot eat meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. However, in that passage, while stating that one is no better or worse for eating or not eating such meat per se, he is far from saying "doesn't matter" or "who cares" but also states that those who eat it do not use their freedom to do so in a way that becomes a problem for others who do not eat it. It does matter, we are to care, and the criterion is not that eating or not eating is forbidden or commanded, but what we Lutherans typically call good order in the church.

This whole adiaphora thing really got rolling with the Reformation. Poor old Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession was originally presented, tried to keep the same lid over both Lutherans and Protestants by a series of measures, the first being the Augsburg Interim -- the "interim" being until a church council could be called to settle the matters -- which allowed for priests to marry and Communion to be given in both kinds (being bread AND the fruit of the vine, not just bread) but otherwise restoring Roman practice. Since that compromises the justification by faith alone thing, although Melancthon was willing to go along with it pretty much everybody else wasn't, unwilling to compromise an essential, THE essential, teaching for a therefore false unity. That lead to the Leipzig Interim, which Melancthon also pursued, wherein Lutheran churches could hold their beliefs but would hold the Roman line in worship, which ticked everybody Catholic and Lutheran alike right off, Catholics seeing the measure as usurping the church's authority and Lutherans split between those who supported it (the Phillipists, after Melancthon's first name) and the "real Lutherans" (Gnesio-Lutherans) who didn't, the whole thing resulting in a war whose conclusion was the principle cuius regio eius religio, whose the rule his the religion, meaning the local ruler decided what was to be followed, and Lutherans resolving it among themselves with the "second Martin", Chemnitz, in the Formula of Concord of 1577, wherein the adiaphora were identified as things like church ritual, which is neither commanded not forbidden in Scripture, but again not in a "doesn't matter" or "who cares" sense but as distinguished from the doctrine of justification by faith alone which we believe IS laid down by Scripture.

So, if we think this adiaphora worship wars stuff is bad now, well, it is but it's been a hell of a lot worse.

Didn't This Post Start Out To Be About Why I Don't Use TDP or LSB?

The only reason I bring all this old stuff is the only reason I ever bring up old stuff -- not for its own sake but for the contribution it makes to understanding what we are even talking about, where we are and how we got there, toward where we ought to go. To me, the old stuff has no other "sake" than that, which is a huge one.

There is something common to all these uses of adiaphora, whether it's the Stoics concerned about reason, physics and logic, the first Christians trying to explain, to themselves as well as others, who and what Jesus is, or the Reformation trying to explain what exactly needs to be reformed and who is going to do it. The story of all of these I bring up here to illustrate that adiaphora is not a matter of who cares or doesn't matter. Be it the example of getting rich with the Stoics, eating meat sacrificed to idols with St Paul, or church rites in the Reformation, these are things that can go either way, for good or bad, not essentials in themselves but completely dependent as to whether they go good or bad on the essentials, and if they go bad are a source of great harm to those essentials, therefore, they are hardly, though not essential, a who cares or doesn't matter kind of thing. In that sense, there are no "indifferent" things.

Neither Commanded Nor Forbidden in Scripture.

This phrase does not mean, for Lutherans anyway and we're the ones who wrote it, "if it ain't in Scripture we ain't doing it". It also doesn't mean, as adiaphora never has since well before we took up the term, "who cares" or "it doesn't matter". It relates to things that can go either way, good or bad, therefore they do matter and we must care.

Our Lutheran principle is, if it contradicts Scripture we ain't doing it. Being commanded or forbidden in Scripture is not the only source of a good idea, it is rather the only source of a good idea that is divine. The care and concern that we take about ideas that are not divine is entirely based on their effect of being for good or bad on the ideas that are divine. And this care and concern, as we said before, we typically call good order in the church.

This whole business about rites and ceremonies in the church is all about that. God commanded in the Law rites and ceremonies in the Temple. He hasn't commanded bupkis about rites and ceremonies since. But he does command care and concern for our fellows, he does speak against doing things that may be OK in and of themselves but are not helpful to the common good, good order in the church, the touchstone always being what he has commanded or forbidden.

So in and of itself, there is no rite, lectionary or calendar that is essential and any number of them that are legitimately possible. The thing is, that does not mean any rite, lectionary or calendar is fine, nor that any possible one is a good idea or even OK. For about 1500 years, three fourths of its elapsed history to date, the Western church has used a lectionary and calendar that goes back to the influence of St Jerome, a rite for the Divine Service that goes back to the influence of St Gregory, and an order for the Divine Office that goes back to St Benedict, not once delivered unchangeable for all time, but in a continuous and organic development over many places and times with many variations. The Eastern church has a similar story.

The point of all of it being good order in the church. Yet what do we see to-day?

Good Order In The Church.

Well, the Eastern church didn't have Vatican II so there we see about the same. But in the West, and for us Lutherans, completely at odds with the idea stated in our confessions of for the most part retaining the ceremonies previously in use simply reformed to exclude what contradicts the Gospel, we see nearly everywhere a lectionary and calendar derived from the model of 1960s Rome, and an approach to service books derived from the model of 1960s Rome as well.

What happened here? Was there no Reformation? Does Rome still really run things just a little less forcibly than before?

What did our Lutheran fathers do? Ride out the "interim", then when Rome sought to put some order to things at Trent say "Well there you go, now let's get a commission going to implement this ourselves"? No, and in the words of the great theologian Chris Rock, Hell No. They stuck by our aim of preserving and defending the liturgy, by continuing the ceremonies previously in use corrected not by the overall liturgical agenda of some movement but simply to remove what contradicts the Gospel. This is why we could continue to benefit from Luther's sermons and liturgical writings, all of them from before Trent, and why we could benefit from centuries of others' sermons and liturgical writings since.

So why would one break from that and start a completely new thing? Actually we could end the post right here, with the answer that there is no answer, there is no reason to break with that and start a completely new thing, and continue with what the church has continued with for centuries heading to millennia. Except we didn't do that; something else already happened.

What Happened Instead.

Sometimes it's all laid up to Dom Prosper Gueranger, OSB, (1805 - 1875) who founded Solesmes Abbey and worked long and hard to bring a participation with understanding of the liturgy to ordinary people. Well hell, all the revisionists say that, and thereby try to justify themselves in doing things Dom Prosper of blessed memory never ever had in mind. Such as a complete revision of the liturgy offering all kinds of options. He in fact promoted the popular use of Gregorian Chant, and as to reform, proposed little by way of change and worked to reforming people rather than the liturgy.

The so-called Liturgical Movement took it much further. While it began within the Roman church, it became involved with the Ecumenical Movement, and not incidentally, the historical-critical method of Biblical criticism. The so-called "Higher Criticism" originally meant the work of scholars at the University of Tuebingen. Well guess who was one of the early ones involved in that -- Phillip Melancthon! The movement took shape with Ferdinand Christian Baur, morphed into a general approach to Scripture as maybe the revealed word of God but also a human document capable of being studied like other human documents, began at this same time to have followers offering a radically different view of Jesus and the New Testament, particularly David Strauss (1808 - 1874) in The Life of Jesus (1846) and Ludwig Feuerbach (1804 = 1872) in The Essence of Christianity (1854) then Ernest Renan's Life of Jesus (1863). Tuebingen continues to this day to have notable alumni, for example Hans Kueng and Joseph Ratzinger, the latter operating these days under the name Pope Benedict XVI.

All of these movements, while distinct, share characteristics typical of the age, whose proponents two centuries later still think are cutting edge. And that is, that much if not most of what we have thought before about Christianity, and the divisions over it in the Reformation, were essentially products of ignorance from which we can now emerge with the discovery of sources lost to previous ages and methodology inspired by the Enlightenment and Rationalism to evaluate them. Thus, in doctrine maybe Scripture doesn't say what we thought it said, in ecclesiology, maybe church isn't exactly what either Catholics or Protestants have thought, and in liturgy, maybe our worship is much farther from the worship of the apostolic age than either Catholics or Protestants have thought. Thus began the impetus to change doctrine or resist change, change church structures or resist change, and change liturgy or resist change.

And that's where we are right now, still working all of this stuff out.

Here's The Problem.

At Trent, the Roman church sought to end the problem, end the "interim" with the appropriate council, in liturgy revising the Roman liturgy to both provide a single use throughout the church ending the confusion of variations all over the place, and at the same time preserve the liturgy from the doctrinal errors of the reformers, by restoring the liturgy to the original form and essence of the apostles and the early "Fathers". Thus the Roman Missal of Pope Paul V in 1570 (the Roman church officially names liturgy by the name and date of the pope who authorised it).

The Mass of Pope Paul V of 1570 did not, any more than any of the others, stay once delivered and never changed. It was revised just 34 years later by Pope Clement VIII, and 30 years after that by Pope Urban VIII, on through to my own lifetime, in 1955 Pope Pius XII making extensive changes to the liturgy for Holy Week, and finally by Pope John XXIII in 1962.

"Finally" because at Vatican II something altogether different was done. From a confluence of trends from the Liturgical Movement, the Ecumenical Movement and the Higher Critical Movement discussed above, it seemed the Paul V liturgy, also called the Tridentine Rite, could not due to the limitations of its time fulfill its own goals of restoring worship to the form and nature of the Apostles and the Fathers, and an entirely new order, not a revision of the existing order, was constructed -- new Mass, or rather Masses, new calendar, new lectionary, the works.

Well Judas H Priest on a committee, what's so wrong with that?

Yeah I know, we asked that way back up there somewhere. Then we said "For starters". It's just my way of saying by parallel construction that we're now ready for the enders, so to speak.

Conclusion.

You know, a guy could look at all this and say hey, liturgy is a pretty broad term for something that has changed and changed again at various hands for centuries and centuries, so the changes at our hands in our time simply take their place in that unfolding story. After all, there's no revealed liturgy, and as long as it's grounded in Jesus and Scripture, it's OK.

That would be so nice. But it would ignore some huge, essential things.

1. Adiaphora, from the Stoics to the 21st Century LCMS, are not matters of indifference in the sense of "who cares" or "doesn't matter", but in fact, precisely because they are neither good nor bad in themselves, neither commanded nor forbidden, can, and WILL, go either way, and therefore require serious attention for the sake of good order in the church, the building up of the brethren and the spreading of the message, which IS something commanded in Scripture and therefore good in itself.

2. What was the liturgical aim of the Lutheran Reformers? To restore the liturgy to the form and nature of the Apostles and the Fathers? No, that was Trent, not us. To restore the liturgy to the form and intent of the Apostles and the Fathers, crafting a new whole with tools they did not have and therefore produced faulty restorations of the form and intent of the Apostles and Fathers which if retained at all can be at most alongside our new whole? No, that was Vatican II, not us. Our aim, stated in our Confessions, was to invent no new liturgy any more than to invent a new Christianity, but conserve, zealously guard and defend, the ceremonies previously in use, pruning only by the criterion of whether something contradicts the Gospel, faithful to the tradition handed on in the actual experience of the church and not to some imagined lost ideal. That is an entirely different agenda. There is no point in a Lutheran version of a non-Lutheran agenda. Actually, there can't even be such a thing, try as we may to produce one.

3. Not only that, the "reforms" of Vatican II were a conscious and intended break with the past. Was this the liturgical aim of the Lutheran Reformers? No. They wanted to correct the abuses of the past, and in doing so demonstrate our continuity with the past, that in this aspect too we are not some new idea or church but the same one. Dropping a centuries long development with an associated centuries long preaching tradition does not demonstrate continuity with that. Rather, it expresses, intended or not, continuity with the heterodox churches doing this Vatican II style thing in our time in line with the various modern movements (Liturgical, Ecumenical, Higher Critical) discussed above.

4. Having done that, though, can we not use both it and what came before, having the best of the new and the old, and in line with our belief that rites and ceremonies need not be the same everywhere? Well, before even getting to that, as stated in Points Two and Three the "new" is not in line with the aim of the Lutheran reformers, so there is no "best" to be desired. But if one were to proceed anyway, what is the result? That rites and ceremonies need not be the same everywhere for one thing primarily addresses the legitimacy of our efforts to reform liturgy apart from the supposed authority of Rome, and for another, consistency at least within a given area was desired, for the sake of the good order stated in Point One. A situation where in one parish it's this calendar but in another it's that calendar, here this Divine Service "setting" there that Divine Service "setting", here these readings and there those readings, etc, all drawn from between the covers of the same book, in no way corresponds to the varied development of liturgy over time and place; rather, it simply reflects the judgement of whoever determined what goes between the two covers, and mistakes variety over time and place for variety within a given time and place. Which is why the historic liturgies, say those associated with St Gregory in the West or St John Chrysostom in the East, evidence nothing of "Way To Pronounce Absolution A, Way To Pronounce Absolution B; Gloria but here's something else you can do too; here's this "setting" but here's some others too; here's a cycle of Scripture readings but here's another one too; here's a calendar of observances but here's another one too" etc, on through our relatively late The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941. The modern ones, including ours, do, Vatican II style.

5. And once that happens, or rather, since that has happened, it only invites endless discussion of that judgement. The covers of such a book settle nothing, can settle nothing, about the "worship wars" since the covers themselves do not uphold the historic liturgy but are limits imposed on "what else too", leaving the judgement as to what else too forever open to question -- since we look East, or to Rome, or cut and paste from this or that past order like kids playing mix and match dress-up in their parents' closets, why not look to Willow Creek or other places drawing good numbers to services too? And why would they not ask that question: we now already have "contemporary worship" that places liturgy that proceeds from an agenda different than ours alongside our historic worship, that tries to supply a Lutheran content to a non-Lutheran agenda, and with that, it is no longer the zealous guarding and defending of the mass of our Confessions but simply a competition among various ideas of what "contemporary worship" will be allowed too, with LSB and TDP, despite the best intentions, being part of the problem they seek to address.

And that is why I am not a TDP or LSB user.

07 September 2009

It's Fall -- What Happened to Sukkoth? 2009.

Well, it's sort of Fall, or Autumn if you insist -- Labor Day is the unofficial start of Fall, the official one is 1718 hours EDT on 22 September 2009. Sukkoth begins at sunset, the start of the Biblical day, on 2 October this year 2009, 15 Tishrei in the Jewish calendar. So what's my point? Here's the deal.

The background is that Past Elder, the blog, commenced operations 22 February 2007. In my posts about Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost, I mentioned that the Christian pattern of yearly worship derives from the Jewish one.

In my second year, I took to posting a few posts again, revised here and there, that relate to our cycle of observances of major parts of our faith in the church year, and also the civil calendar, calling it the "blogoral cycle" as a play on terms like "sanctoral cycle" for the saint's days in the church year.

The blogoral cycle takes particular note of how our church year comes from and fulfills the cycle of observances in the Jewish calendar. However in Fall, where the Jewish calendar is FULL of stuff, the Christian church calendar has -- NOTHING, precisely where, if it indeed comes from and fulfills the Jewish cycle, one would expect it to be full of stuff too!

What's up with that? Here's the 2009 version of my post about it.

In the religion God delivered to the Jews in the Old Testament, he commands three major festivals: 1) Pesach or Passover; 2) Shavuot or Pentecost, also called Weeks; 3) Sukkot, called Tabernacles or Booths. These three are the Shalosh Regalim, the Three Pilgrim Festivals where all Jews go to Jerusalem.

And in the Fall, in addition to Sukkot, before it there is the High Holidays, more properly the Yamim Noraim or Days of Awe, which are the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashanah, so-called Jewish New Year, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year, commanded in the Law of Moses, then Sukkoth itself, which runs seven days, then the Eighth Day, Shemini Atzeret, when normal living indoors resumes and Simchat Torah, Rejoicing in Torah, is held with the conclusion of the annual reading through of Torah and starting it right over again and dancing that often goes on for hours.

In some of the other posts, we saw Passover transformed by Christ at the Last Supper, or Last Seder, into what we call Holy Communion, the new and eternal testament of his body and blood, 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 Days of Awe, where's the transformed Yom Kippur, where's the transformed Sukkoth, where's the transformed Eighth Day and Rejoicing in Torah? Where's the dancing?

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. So these two are absent because they have served their purpose and been fulfilled.

But 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 a transformed Sukkoth in the Christian calendar ain't even happening either. 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.

As a comment to last year's version of this post, "orrologion", an Orthodox blogger, observed that "In the Orthodox Christian tradition the Transfiguration fills the place of Sukkot. Fruits are blessed and it commemorates Peter's offer to build three booths for Christ, Moses and Elijah". In the Eastern observance the "Blessing of the First Fruits" does give it a harvest connexion, but, Sukkoth is not about first but last fruits. And, in the Transfiguration we see Jesus' fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), and the appearance of all three persons in God, as he is about to go to Jerusalem for the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.

Related to that, the Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated in both the Eastern and the Western church on 6 August. The West had the feast, but only settled on this date in 1456, when the Kingdom of Hungary broke the Siege of Belgrade and forced the Islamic Ottomans back. News of the victory made it to Rome on 6 August, and in view of its importance Pope Callixtus III put the Transfiguration in the general Roman church calendar on this date.

We Lutherans do not follow this, but follow a tradition which places the Transfiguration on the last Sunday after Epiphany, placing the event where it is in the course of Jesus' life followed by the Gospel readings of the traditional church cycle. The military connexion of 6 August would be odd for a harvest feast. In our times however it has found a significance which is altogether spooky, which I have never heard anyone East or West mention.

6 August is also the anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons, Hiroshima. It puts in stark contrast the world and God: one can approach a transfiguration by God shown in this event, or one can approach a transfiguration by Man shown in Hiroshima -- salvation is of the Lord.

At my wife's funeral, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the secular Sukkoth, in 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. And also to the rejoicing and dancing, not for hours, but eternity!