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.

27 March 2011

Prayers and Some Gospel For Your Oculi Mid-Week Devotion.

The Introit for Oculi:

My eyes are ever toward the Lord: for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare; look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me, for I am alone and poor. (From Psalm 25:15-16)

Verse Response: Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul: O my God, I trust in Thee; let me not be ashamed. (From Psalm 25:1,2)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Collect for Oculi:

We beseech Thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of Thy humble servants and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defence against all our enemies. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

24 March 2011

Problem Pregnancy? The Annunciation, 25 March 2011.

The Annunciation. So what was announced? The story is related in the Gospel according to St Luke, 1:26-38. The angel Gabriel -- which means "God is my hero" in Hebrew -- announced to a Jewish girl named Miriam, better known in English as Mary, that God would cause her to become pregnant with the promised Messiah, and that she should name him Joshua -- which means in Hebrew "God rescues" -- which name is better known in English as Jesus, from the Latin for the Greek for the Hebrew.

Of course, if God is causing the pregnancy, God is not the parent but the father. The complication is, Mary is engaged to a man named Joseph who presumably will be taking care of causing her pregnancies, and, given that engagement was pretty much marriage in their culture, the time between the promise of marriage and holding the wedding ceremony, if she said yes but Joseph did not believe "It's OK God did it", not something a guy is inclined to believe, he would be within his rights under the Law of Moses to have her put to death. Mary knew that. How's that for a problem pregnancy?

So while it's fine to get all into the miracle of a pregnancy cause by divine intervention rather than human intercourse, it might be well to spend a little more time on this -- Mary faced a real hard decision on this pregnancy, like the risk of death, it was not at all convenient for her, but, she trusted God and said yes. Luke also records that Yes, in the famous Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55, which has become a central part of the Divine Office about which this blog recently posted, associated with Vespers or evening prayer in the Western church and Matins (which if you mistake the Catholic Church for the catholic church no longer exists) in the Eastern church.

How about that, the Messiah comes from a troubled pregnancy. Maybe we can put that in the context of troubled pregnancies as well as of the Messiah; there is only one Messiah, but we have a lot of troubled pregnancies. Far from being something shunned or ignored, Christianity and the Christian Church started with one!

And how about this, notice that the date on which the Annunciation, which would then be the date of Jesus' conception, is celebrated exactly nine months, the period of human gestation, before 25 December, the celebration of Jesus' birth. Which shows, and makes the church calendar a witness, that life begins at conception. In fact, the beginning of Jesus' earthly life on this date was such a big deal that it was New Years' Day, the beginning of the new year, until relatively recently, in Mother England (where it is also known as Lady Day) until 1752 when the Gregorian (as in Pope Gregory the Great) calendar replaced the Julian (as in Julius Caesar) calendar.

Although the Western church calendar does contain provisions for moving it should it fall in Easter, which is possible, the Eastern church moves it under no circumstances whatever, so important is the celebration of the beginning of Jesus' life, and it would be celebrated as well as, for example, Good Friday. How's that for a statement that life begins at conception?

This pro-life statement is not an accident but quite intentional. When Dionysus Exiguus (Dennis the Short) worked the calendar details out, which was meant not to just work the calendar details out but to fix a date for the observance of Easter, he assigned the beginning of the new year to the feast of the Annunciation, 25 March, since, because that is when Jesus' life began, that is when the time of grace began, and the years would be counted as before (anno domini, in the year of Our Lord) or after his conception, not after his birth.

They still are, but the world has erased much of the reference, first moving New Years Day, then, thinking life begins at birth really, calling the years, since the Gregorian calendar is in use now throughout the world in lands with a Christian history or not, the Common Era, or Before the Common Era. But when you see that AD still used, remember, it meant originally not just the year of our Lord, but the year of our Lord starting from the date of his conception.

And when you don't see the AD (anno domini, in the year of our Lord) or BC (before Christ) but instead CE (common era) or BCE (before the common era), remember it is the world's way of erasing the reference to Christ in how years are numbered in the calendar of Christian origin now in general use worldwide.

Lady Day has some echoes even in the secular world. It is the first of the four quarter days, marking the quarters of the year, when rent is due and servants are hired, and Lady Day as the first is also when landowners' contracts with farm workers began. 25 March in the old Julian calendar became 6 April in the new Gregorian calendar, and 6 April to this day begins the tax year in the UK.

To be complete, the quarter days align roughly with the solstices and equinoxes, and they are Lady Day, 25 March, Midsummer Day, 24 June, Michaelmas, 29 September, and Christmas, 25 December.

So Happy Lady Day, and especially to those ladies in troubled pregnancies with tough times ahead if you go through with it. God gets it, he chose to come into the world that way. His mother gets it too. So does his church. We're all with you, and welcome you to be with us.

21 March 2011

What's A Divine Office, And Why Bother? 2011.

Festschrift on the Feast of St Benedict, 21 March 2011.

What's a Divine Office -- where God goes to work?

The divine office and the divine service are the public worship of the church. Oh man, hey, just give me Jesus, we're free aren't we, why bother with all this set prayer stuff? One hears that a lot about liturgy these days. Well, here's why and how all this set prayer stuff is part of giving you Jesus, or rather, part of Jesus giving himself to you.

How the Divine Office came to be.

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. As part of that restoration, 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).

How the Church Adapted These Prayers.

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 a series of daily Christian synagogue services whose main ones are:

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.

What's a Canticle and How Do Canticles Fit Into This?

The Te Deum is the only canticle that is not directly from Scripture. Traditionally it is said to have been spontaneously composed as St Ambrose baptised St Augustine in 387. It proclaims the Creed in the context of a heavenly liturgy and concludes with verses from the Psalms. You want some praise music -- this is it!

The Magnificat quotes Mary's words to Elizabeth at the Visitation, Luke 1:46-55, which in turn reflects and fulfills the Song of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, considered in Judaism the example of how to pray and as such the haftorah for Rosh Hoshannah or New Years, not to mention Mary's mother's name was Ana, or Anne, a variant of, guess what, Hannah! Want some more praise music -- this is it!

The Nunc dimittis quotes Simeon's words to Mary when Jesus was presented in the Temple to fulfill the Law, Luke 2:29-32. Our Common Service -- would that it were our common service -- also uses it as a thanksgiving after Communion. Want still more praise music -- this it it!

Also worth mentioning is the Benedictus, which quotes the words of Zacharias, a Temple priest and husband of Elizabeth and father of St John the Baptist, said in praise of the coming Messiah, Luke 1:68-79, which with the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis are the three evangelical, because they come from Luke, canticles said every day. The Benedictus is associated with the office Lauds, meaning praise, which fits here because originally Lauds was Matins, but as the night vigil came to be said right before Lauds, the name Matins passed to the Vigil (hence the oddity of a morning name for a night service) and the original Matins became Lauds. In the Eastern Church Lauds is still at the end of Matins, which they call Orthros.

Summary.

The history of this development is beyond our scope here. What is important here is three main points:

1) community gathering for prayer, preaching and Scripture reading throughout the day continued in the church from the synagogue from Apostolic times, for example Acts chapter 20;
2) amid the great variation in details over time and place a consistent pattern is clear, a morning prayer from Abraham to Shaharit to Matins, an afternoon prayer from Isaac to Minhah to Vespers, and an evening prayer from Jacob to Maariv to Compline;
3) the three major times of prayer came to feature canticles, hymns setting parts of Scripture, usually known from their first words in Latin, the Te Deum for Matins, the Magnificat for Vespers, and the Nunc dimittis for Compline.

How Do I Find This Praise Music?

Where can you find this stuff? There's been all kinds of versions over time in both the Eastern and Western church.

More praise. Looks like we don't have to go hunting for praise stuff, the church has had it all along in the Divine Office! And you hardly have to undertake some sort of monastic regimen. All this stuff started with parishes, not monasteries! Any of the hymnals in use by our beloved synod contains material for use, sometimes combining Vespers and Compline into one. Some of our parishes hold such services, but unfortunately many don't.

Since the Divine Office, like the Divine Service, is public communal prayer, one no more really participates in the Divine Office by praying it at home than one really participates in the Divine Service by staying home and praying an order of service. But for centuries parish pastors were supposed to do just that, pray the Office apart from the community, and pious laity sometimes did too, and to this day there are books to do that.

So what is one to do, on the one hand there being this magnificent prayer of praise and on the other most of us not being monks or nuns or in parishes where it is prayed? Not to mention that, as Luther notes in the Large Catechism, we are relieved of the private "burdensome babbling of the canonical hours"? One can study the Divine Office in our hymnals -- service book being a better term, since there is so much more to them than hymns -- to appreciate and gain from them, but at home or individually one can just follow what is set out for personal or home Morning and Evening Prayer in the Little Catechism!

From current resources, may I suggest the "whatever your devotion may suggest" part be the daily reading in Portals of Prayer and from Walther in God Grant It, both from Concordia Publishing House. One's devotion may also suggest the Canticle associated with each time of prayer, or a section from the Explanation to the Small Catechism. Keep it simple, no burdensome babbling!

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.

Why Is This Posted on 21 March?

In 2010, this discussion of the Divine Office joined my "Blogoral Calendar", a series of posts aligned with the Church Year. My original post on the Office was part of something for the O Antiphons of Advent, then posted separately, and later more fully treated re the Office itself. Revised and expanded for 2011, it now will be published on the traditional feast day of the man who more than anyone else allowed this continuous song of praise of the church to survive the fall of the Roman Empire and its wake of destruction and pass to us. That is the holy father in faith St Benedict of Nursia (now Norcia, Italy), whose feast is celebrated, as is the custom with feasts, on the date of his death, or rather birth unto eternity, which is 21 March.

Benedict was from a Roman noble family, but disgusted at the degenerate lifestyle around him, left town in search of a way to not live like that. He came to establish a celibate community, rather than just being a hermit, and based his routine for the community's daily prayer on the practice of the parishes in Rome. It was because of his conviction that prayer is not to be a retreat from work or separated from active life that the community prayer was called the office, the English word from the Latin officium, which means work or task or duty or business, and itself derives from the Latin words opus (work) and facere (to do).

St Benedict said "Orare est laborare laborare est orare", which is "To pray is to work (and) to work is to pray". In fact the motto of the whole damn Order of St Benedict is ora et labora, pray and work.

But, just as with St Gregory who was key wrt to the Divine Service, because St Benedict's feast will fall in Lent, it was moved to 11 July, the day his remains were moved, or translated, as they say, to Fleury Abbey, aka Floriacum, in France, since known as Fleury-Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire, by the ecclesiastical vandals in their 1960s Sack of Rome called Vatican II that left its own wake of destruction.

Vatican II abolished Matins too btw, for an "Office of Readings" that can be said whenever! For them. And unfortunately for some of us too, as many non Roman churches have been taken in by the liturgical vandalism of Vatican II and modified their observances accordingly. But it is hardly our path, as our Confessions state, maintaining the ceremonies previously in use, rejecting only the accretions that contradict Scripture.

Luckily, the catholic church ain't the Catholic Church.

Conclusion.

What a great gift has been handed to us! Whether simplified for home or in full in our parishes, 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 unfolding through all its points so far of the coming of salvation and leading on to that great and final Coming of the Omega drawing all Creation to its convergence in God in Jesus his Christ!!

20 March 2011

Prayers and Some Gospel For Reminiscere Week Devotion.

The Introit for Reminiscere:

Remember, O Lord, Thy compassions, and Thy mercies that are from the beginning of the world, lest at any time our enemies rule over us: deliver us, O God of Israel, from all our tribulations. (From Psalm 25: 6,3,22)

Verse Response: To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed. (From Psalm 25: 1,2)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Collect for Reminiscere:

O God, who seest that of ourselves we have no strength, keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

There's two parts to this, "Your Grace and Mercy".



13 March 2011

Prayers and Some Gospel For Invocavit Week Devotion.

The Introit for Invocavit:

He shall cry to Me, and I shall hear him; I will deliver him and I will glorify him; I will fill him with length of days. (From Psalm 91:15,16)

Verse Response: He who dwells in the aid of the Most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of heaven. (From Psalm 91:1)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Collect for Invocavit:

O Lord, mercifully hear our prayer and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to defend us from them that rise up against us. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

10 March 2011

What's A Divine Service, And Why Bother? 2011.

Festschrift on the Feast of St Gregory the Great, 12 March 2011.

Hey, Christian Freedom, Adiaphora! No NT Rules About How To Worship!


The New Testament lays down no order of service for Christian worship, and neither does Christ nor anyone else in the New Testament. Therefore we are free in these matters, there being no command from God about it. And therefore, as long as it preaches Jesus, a service is good and to take it any farther than that stomps on our Christian freedom, shows an attachment to a simply human tradition, and therefore is a barrier to preaching Jesus to all people of any tradition, right?

Well I'll be dipped if our Lutheran Confessions, though, aren't quite proud of the way our services preserve what Christian worship had been and seek only to omit any accretions along the way which contradict the Gospel, and not only that, but present the fact that our services pretty much are the same as the ceremonies previously in use as evidence that our reforms are true.

Now how's that?

Here's how's that. The fact is, the idea that liturgy etc are "indifferent things", sometimes called by the Greek word for that, adiaphora, things not found in Scripture and neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture, and that therefore worship is something we are free to do as we see fit in light of what seems to work best for us, is itself an idea not found in Scripture but comes from human philosophy and Scripture commands against it!

The Original Adiaphora.

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.

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, the only philosopher worth reading, 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 not 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.

How Adiaphora Became A Big Deal In The Reformation.

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.

Hey, Isn't This A Post About The Divine Service?

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.

Be it the example of getting rich with the Stoics, eating meat sacrificed to idols with St Paul, or church rites in the Reformation, the common thing is that 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.

Our Lutheran principle is, not if it ain't in Scripture we ain't doing it, but 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.

And that development did not just fall out of the sky or start about 1500 years ago, but itself was a continuous and organic development from what came before it in the Jewish synagogue, something Jesus and the Apostles knew very well.

What Did Jesus And The Apostles Do?

The thing is, Jesus and the Apostles and the people around them were Jews. The NT does speak of them as participating in regular normal Jewish worship. About which it supplies no details. And why would it, everybody knew. Kind of like a birthday party invitation isn't going to include music and lyrics to "Happy Birthday", you know that stuff already. Except when it comes to what they knew already, we don't. The point of this post is to lay them out so you do.

And that's important because that is what they did, and if we don't know what they did we'll read the NT like people coming across a birthday invitation with no idea that singing "Happy Birthday" will be part of it. And that, in turn, is important because that is what the Christian communities in the NT and on from there did, worship within the forms they knew yet adapted them to what they also knew, the Gospel.

Where The Idea Of A Divine Service Comes From.

OK, there's three times of prayer traditionally in Judaism, Ma'ariv which happens right after sundown, the start of the day in Judaism, Shacharit which is in the morning, and Minchah which is in the afternoon. Now, this is also where the community Christian prayer of other than our Sunday services, the Divine Office, comes from, but we'll get into that in the next post. Right now our focus is on what happens for the Sabbath service, the ancestor of our Sunday service.

Sabbath is not on Sunday. It's Saturday, which if you're lucky enough to speak Spanish you can see in the word for Saturday, sabado, and, remembering when the day starts in Judaism, actually starts in what to us is the night before, Friday after sundown. Ma'ariv, the evening prayer, like our liturgy has a lot of variation over times and places, but also like our liturgy has a basic format underneath all that variation which is always there. Shacharit, the morning prayer, has the same basic format.

Here is that basic format. There's four parts. First are some introductory prayers, then a call to worship and the Shema and the Blessings, then a prayer called the Amidah (aka Shemona Esrei) and on Sabbath readings from Jewish Bible with some explanation, and then concluding prayers.

You know what, this is the way the first part of the Divine Service is laid out too! And that's because right from the start Jesus, the Apostles and the early Christians worshipped this way too, with over time Christian prayers replacing the Jewish ones but in the same format.

The Synagogue Sabbath Service Morphs Into The Service Of The Word.

Let's look at specifics.

First and Second Parts. First are some introductory prayers, then a call to worship and the Shema and the Blessings. In Christian usage this pattern remains, with an opening hymn, a welcome and dedication in the name of each person of the Trinity, in many places the antiphon "I will go unto the altar of God", sometimes the recitation of Psalm 43 (or 42 as numbered in the Greek Septuagint) then in the West instead of the Shema and its Blessings a confession of sin and an announcement of the blessing of forgiveness, followed by an Entrance Prayer of praise, called the Introit, and then a prayer of petition, which in the West somewhere along the line lost the petitions but kept the response, Lord have mercy (Kyrie eleison).

Third Part. Then comes the Amidah, which means "standing" because it is said standing, and is also called the Shemoneh Esrei, which means "eighteen" because it is a prayer of eighteen short prayers written by the 120 men of the Great Assembly, as in Ezra in the Bible, after the return from the Babylonian Captivity and the resumption of religious life at home. A later 19th blessing was added but the name remains. The full Amidah, said on weekdays, has a section of three blessings of praise, thirteen of petitions, and three of thanks.

But on the Sabbath one enjoys a foretaste of eternity and the fullness of God in which no petition is needed, so the Amidah for Sabbath and the great festivals is the first three of praise, one special one for the day replacing the thirteen petitions, and the last three of thanks; all praise and thanks for Sabbath. The church evolved an exact image of this, which starts with the words of the angels at the birth of Christ in Luke 2:14, Glory to God in the highest. It began in Greek, was translated into Latin (said to be by St Hilary of Poitiers about 360), and guess what, has seven sections, a middle reference to his being the one who gave his body and blood to take away our sins, framed by three on either side of praise and thanks.

This is the prayer commonly still called from its first word in Latin, the Gloria, unmistakeably Christian and unmistakeably a Sabbath Amidah, and yeah, said standing! Accept no substitute, insist on the real thing! After the Gloria, there is a prayer called the Collect. What does the Collect collect? The theme of the particular Sunday, whose readings we are about to hear.

Then comes the readings from Scripture and explanations of them. These too follow a clear pattern, which is, to read through the entire Law (aka the Torah, the Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible) by sections in a year, and with each Sabbath's portion, also read a related section from the Prophets or the Other Writings of the Bible. (The Hebrew Bible has three distinct sections, just as Jesus called them, the Law, the Prophets, and the Other Writings; Christian Bibles use the Hebrew Bible as the "Old Testament" but mix the Prophets and Other Writings to-gether.)

Jesus of course fulfilled the Law, and gave us the Gospel. So, in place of reading through the entire Law in a year, Christians began to read through the entire Gospel in a year. But wait a minute, there's four Gospel accounts in the Bible, how do you do that? Well, the New Testament has exactly the same structure as the Old Testament in its Hebrew order: the Gospel accounts first where the Law was first, next the letters, often called by the older word for letters, epistles, of St Paul where the Prophets were next, and last some Other Writings from other Apostles. Within the Gospels, Matthew's was put first, because while of the Greek texts we have Mark was the earliest, the Greek Matthew is a translation of the earliest Gospel, in Aramaic, the Jewish dialect Jesus spoke, which is now lost in that version. So Matthew became the primary Gospel account used in going through the Gospel, with the others here and there. with passages related to the reading for the day from primarily the epistles of St Paul with the writings of the other Apostles here and there.

The list of readings varies over time and place, but the pattern in the Western church was established by St Jerome about 400 or so, in what is called the Comes (Pronounced KO-mays) which in Latin means "to go with" literally, a companion, here a list of readings to go with the service.

This remains to this day the basic pattern of the readings for divine service, except where modern revisionists at or following the lead of Vatican II have cast it aside after about a millennium and a half and come up with a three-year cycle drawing from all the Gospel accounts and epistles generally, adding OT readings and Psalms.

They also cast aside the fact that this supposed improvement was tried centuries ago in the synagogue, where those outside Palestine came up with a three year cycle too, but as it corresponds to no human cycle of anything and flies in the face of the annual rhythm of things, vanished in favour of the one that was there into the dustbin of history, as our current misguided alternative to the historic lectionary will one day do too, and not a minute too soon so it deprives as few as possible of being connected to the centuries, even millenia, long unfolding of the worship of God.

And they also cast aside the whole guiding principle of Lutheran liturgical reformation, that ceremonies be retrained as they have developed except where it expresses something that contradicts Scripture, for a Romantic, 19th century idea of some sort of lost noble past age to be recaptured in its greater purity, which at the hands of the "liturgical movement" became the idea of making the "early church" or the patristic era the ideal to be recaptured in its supposed purity by scholarship and new rites supposedly closer to theirs, rather than the Lutheran idea pf retention of the organic forward development of the church but tested against the norm of not some "early church" or "the Fathers" but of whether it contradicts Scripture or not assisted by the earlier witness of the early church and the Fathers to this same ideal in their own day. The purity sought is not a Romantic fiction of some idealised lost age, but of concordance with Scripture.

Then comes an explanation of what was just read, called the D'var Torah, which is, can you see it coming, the Sermon! Among Germanic Jews, the Ashkenazi, this is also called the Drasha. So your sermon is your drash on the readings. And as in the synagogue, prayers for the sick and other needs or announcements of various kinds may be made after this.

Fourth Part. Finally the concluding prayers, which is the synagogue include the aleinu, the kaddish and a hymn. The aleinu prays for a time when the vain pursuits of Man are replaced by the universal recognition of the true God; the word aleinu means "ours", what it is ours to profess. The kaddish, while best known in the form for mourners, is not essentially about mourning at all. The word comes from the Aramaic, a Hebrew dialect, for "holy" and expresses the belief in what the aleinu prays for, the holy future for living and dead alike and to-gether. All of which is stated in its Christian version in the Creed, which is said, yup, right here, same pattern as before, along with a hymn of the day.

So there you have it, a Christian synagogue service for the Christian Sabbath, point for point, nothing more, and nothing less, there from the start, and present throughout the history of the Christian church, except in the last few centuries with those who ignore all this and worship like going to a birthday party with no clue about "Happy Birthday".

This first part of Christian Sabbath worship has had a number of names over time, and the one that really captures best what it is all about is Service of the Word. Why, because in it, God serves us his Word in Scripture and in explanation of it. It's not really something we do, it's something he does; it's not called service because we serve him but because he serves us.

The Passover Seder Morphs Into The Service Of The Sacrament.

But wait, if that's all of the original Sabbath service, why is it the first part of the Christian service? What is the second part, where did it come from, and why is it there? Here's the answer. The calendar or Jewish worship had weekly things, the Sabbath services, and big things that happened once a year which in fact God did set out in some detail, the biggest of which are three major festivals and the biggest of those are the things relating to Passover.

The night before Jesus was to become our Passover in his Crucifixion, he gathered with his Apostles to celebrate what would be the last Passover meal, called a seder. At the Last Seder, sometimes called the Last Supper but it wasn't just any supper it was the Passover seder, Jesus in what must have blown the Apostles clean away changed the age-old blessings over the bread and the fruit of the vine, saying "Take and eat, this is my body" over the bread and "Take and drink, this is my blood" over the fruit of the vine. Unmistakeable if you came for a seder; he was making himself the Passover and serving it to them.

This then is nothing less than him serving us the Good News itself, his body and blood given for the sins of the world, the passing-over from bondage to sin and death to life with God here and for eternity! And, as he was about to die, and once risen shortly return to the Father, he told them to do this as his memorial. That does not mean we are just remembering Jesus real good. He did not say here is my memorial, he said do THIS, do what he had just done, offer his body and blood, a memorial unlike any the world can offer just as he offers what the world cannot.

This second part of Christian Sabbath worship has had a number of names over time, and the one that really captures best what it is all about is Service of the Sacrament. Why, because in it, God serves us his body and blood given for our salvation. It's not really something we do, it's something he does; it's not called service because we serve him but because he serves us.

Which is totally connected to his resurrection from the dead. If that happened, a massive suspension of the ordinary operation of matter, then, while only lately we understand, matter and energy being related across the speed of light, such a suspension in the ordinary operation of matter also must involve a temporal one too, the mass understood that all along, saying the Risen Christ's Body and Blood were truly present here and now, in, with, and under the appearance of bread and the fruit of the vine, the very same energy, literally and not figuratively given by him the testator to us as the heirs of his testament in the mass. We do and bring nothing, he does and gives everything.

Luther spoke of it this way, in Babylonian Captivity: Who would not shed tears of gladness, indeed, almost faint for joy in Christ, if he believed with unshaken faith that this inestimable promise of Christ belonged to him? How could he help loving so great a benefactor, who of his own accord offers, promises, and grants such great riches and this eternal inheritance to one who is unworthy and deserving of something far different.

Conclusion -- What's A Divine Service And Why Bother?

"Divine Service" is the service of the divine, God, to us of first his Word and then his Sacrament of his Body and Blood. A Christian Sabbath service followed by a Christian Seder, that's it. "Seeker sensitive" doesn't even get right who is the seeker -- it ain't us, though we think we are, but we are not, apart from him we are lost and no more able to come to faith in him that a dead man can wake himself from the dead, as Walther put it. It is he who is seeking us, and it is in our liturgy that we are sensitive to that.

Even the word liturgy shows that. What kind of a word is that, another churchy thing from the musty past that gets in the way of preaching Jesus? The word is the English form of an ancient Greek word that had nothing to do with church, it described the obligation that a wealthy Athenian had toward the people of Athens to do something big for their benefit at his own expense. If Christian worship were not exactly what our Lutheran Confessions say it is, there would have been no reason for the early Greek speaking Christians to appropriate this word -- here, the wealthy Athenian, God, undertakes something for the people at his own expense, the sacrifice of the body and blood of God Made Man Jesus for our salvation from sin and its wages death!!

And that is exactly what a Divine Service is, and why we bother.

PS. Why post this for 12 March? Because it's the feast of St Gregory the Great, that's why, but who is he and what has he got to do with this? Gregory was bishop of Rome from 3 September 590 to 12 March 604, the day he died. It is the custom of the Christian church to commemorate its saints on the day they died, in this life, and were born as it were to eternal life. He was considered a saint immediately by popular acclaim -- the way it used to be done, and even John Calvin, who took the Reformation well beyond what the Lutheran Reformation was all about, thought Gregory was the last good pope and speaks well of him in his Institutes. -- and his memorial feast was celebrated on his day of death. Until Vatican II that is, tinkered with it too, and thinking since the day will always fall in Lent moved it for the Roman church to the day he was installed as bishop of Rome. The Eastern Church sees no problem at all with his feast being during Lent and continues to celebrate his feast on his feast day, as do Western Christians not under the influence of the toxic waste that is the revisionist nonsense of Vatican II and stick to the historic calendar, and the historic everything else for that matter.

01 March 2011

What's A Quadragesima? Lent 2011. A 40 Days Of Purpose.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Pulverise. The root of that English word is the Latin word for dust. It literally means to be turned into dust. Which is exactly what death does. It's going to pulverise me, you, and everyone and everything else.

Howzat for some good news?

And that's not only living stuff, it's everything. Everything decays, everything loses its value over time. Go look at your car. Then look at its service record. Look at what you paid for it and what it's worth now. Or, speaking of paying for stuff, look at the money in your wallet or your bank statement. Both the money itself and the value given it are decaying.

Such is life. Such is even non life. It's even measurable scientifically. That's called a half-life, which is the time it takes something to lose half its original value.

And such are the famous words from the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, or on Aschermittwoch, as they say in the original language of our beloved synod. We are dust, and unto dust we and everything else will return. Observable fact, and we start right there.

And go where? Is that all there is? So we can resign ourselves to that, without illusion and without asking it to be more? So we go for the gusto we can get while we can go for anything? So we create such meaning as we can in between the inevitable finish to a start for which we did not ask? What meaning or purpose can something that is dust to dust have anyway?

In Lent we begin with the most unflinching fact of our existence, death, and are asked to be quite clear on that -- you will die, and everything and everyone else dies or decays or passes too. Ashes signify that. Ashes are that. Ashes are in your face about that. Ashes are ON your face about that.

And ashes are also something else. Ashes are a sign of repentance. Repentance from what? Is it not God who needs to repent, if there is one, for supposedly creating such an inescapable joke whose only meaning is what we provide it? So you come up with a service where you mark stuff on our faces and read a Gospel passage saying not to go around looking like you're being all religious by marking yourselves?

Hey, it's Lent. This is not going to be pretty. Or very nice either. It gets a little rough. And on Ash Wednesday the two most basic facts of Man come to-gether in a jarring way. One is the fact that you came from nothing and you're going back there. The other is, God doesn't want it that way, didn't set it up that way, and if it's that way now, guess whose doing that is?

From the Introit echoed in the Collect through the prophecy of Joel to the words of Jesus, which are all read at mass on Ash Wednesday, the double message of the ashes is clear: turn to God and you will be delivered, stick to ashes and you will be, well, ashes.

Rick Warren says, whenever God wants to prepare someone for something, he takes forty days. His Forty Days for either churches or individuals has the same basis, two passages from Matthew, the one the Great Commandment in Matthew 22, and the other the Great Commission in Matthew 28. From that he abstracts five principles, or purposes for Man.

Love the Lord with all your heart … (Worship)
Love your neighbour as yourself. (Ministry)
Go and make disciples … (Mission)
Baptising them … (Fellowship)
Teaching them … (Discipleship)

Guess what? The church in its liturgy -- supposedly the dismal domain of those who only care about maintaining the musty museum of such things -- for most of its two millennia existence has been offering a five-point forty days of purpose to prepare for God's answer to Man's problem, the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Christian Passover. The period of preparation for it in both the Eastern and Western Church is a period of forty days in imitation of Christ’s forty days in the desert before he began his way to the cross.

The Eastern church's forty days starts on a Monday called Clean Monday and runs forty consecutive days until Friday of the sixth week, then celebrates Lazarus Saturday as a pointing toward Jesus' Resurrection, then proceeds with Holy Week where his way to the cross is told.

The Western church starts on a Wednesday and does not include Sundays in the count, each Sunday being a "little Easter", and concludes with Holy Saturday, which is also the end of Holy Week.

Same idea, different ways of setting it up.

For the five Sundays in Lent before Holy Week, the Western Church offers the five point plan of preparation. Lent, or Quadragesima, will start with the starkest facts of human existence, right from looking like there is no meaning or purpose to it, in your face, ON your face, then see why that is and what God has done about it, and end actually inviting, welcoming, not fearing, the judgement of God.

At one time in English, Lent itself was called Quadragesima, meaning forty days, the duration of Lent, and it's also the name of the first Sunday in Lent. This still survives in other languages, for example in Spanish the word Cuaresma for Lent. "Lent" in English originally just meant Spring. The word lent derives from a Germanic root meaning long, applied then to Spring as the daylight gets longer, then applied to Quadragesima which happens in Spring.

Here's how it works. The church has a definite pattern it uses to take us through the life of Christ and our life in Christ. It's an annual (not a three year) cycle. It arranges the readings from the book it says you can rely on, the Bible, and a sermon based on these reading in the same pattern every day.

Here's the pattern.

The church begins its liturgy with an introductory verse called the Introit that sets the tone for the day, usually from the Psalms, with a verse response to it. In fact, the Sunday often takes its name from the first word or two of this introductory verse, the Introit. Then, the church has a prayer before the Scripture readings each Sunday that collects the thoughts of the day, called, oddly enough, the Collect. Then, for Scripture readings, the church continues the synagogue practice, replacing the Torah, or Law, readings with Gospel ones, and replacing the related haftorah, usually from the Prophets, readings with ones usually from the Epistles.

Let’s see how that lays out for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays in Lent. (We'll get to Holy Week in later posts.)

Ash Wednesday / Aschermittwoch. 09 March 2011.

Introit. Wisdom 11:24,25,27. Thou has mercy upon all, O Lord, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made, overlooking the sins of men for the sake of repentance and sparing them, because Thou art the Lord our God. Verse, Psalm 56:2.
Collect. Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that Thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitient, create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness.
Epistle. Joel 2:12-19.
Gospel. Matthew 6:16-21.

Invocavit -- He shall call to Me. 13 March 2011.

Introit. Psalm 91:15,16. He shall cry to Me, and I shall hear him; I will deliver him and I will glorify him; I will fill him with length of days. Verse, Psalm 91:1.
Collect. O Lord, mercifully hear our prayer and stretch forth the right hand of the majesty to defend us from them that rise up against us.
Epistle. 2 Cor 6:1-10 Not to receive grace in vain. Now is the acceptable time, now it the day of salvation.
Gospel. Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus' forty days and nights, tempted to be a false Messiah.

Reminiscere – Remember, O Lord. 20 March 2011.

Introit. Psalm 25:6,3,22. Remember, O Lord, Thy compassions, and Thy mercies that are from the beginning of the world, lest at any time our enemies rule over us: deliver us, O God of Israel, from all our tribulations. Verse, Psalm 25:1,2.
Collect. O God, who seest that of ourselves we have no strength, keep us both outwardly and inwardly that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.
Epistle. 1 Thess 4:1-7 Progress in sanctification, holiness.
Gospel. Matthew 15:21-28 Jesus heals the Canaanite woman’s daughter. Great is thy faith, let it be done.

Oculi -- My eyes are ever toward the Lord. 27 March 2011.

Introit. Psalm 25:15-16. My eyes are ever toward the Lord: for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare; look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me, for I am alone and poor. Verse, Psalm 25:1,2.
Collect. We beseech Thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of Thy humble servants and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to be our defence against all our enemies.
Epistle. Eph 5:1-9 Walk, then, as children of light.
Gospel. Luke 11:14-28 Jesus’ lesson after casting out a demon. Blessed are they that hear the Word and keep it.

Laetare – Rejoice, O Jerusalem. 03 April 2011.

Introit. Isaiah 66:10,11. Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come to-gether all you who love her: rejoice with joy, you who have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. Verse, Psalm 122:1.
Collect. Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Thy grace may mercifully be relieved.
Epistle. Gal 4:22-31 Children of Agar, bondage, slave, Sinai; children of Sarah, promise, free, Jerusalem.
Gospel. John 6:1-15 The loaves and fishes. Passover is near, the bread king.

Judica -- Judge me, O God. 10 April 2011.

Introit. Psalm 43:1,2. Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou are my God and my strength. Verse, Psalm 43:3.
Collect. We beseech Thee, almighty God, mercifully to look upon Thy people, that by Thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul.
Epistle. Heb 9:11-15 Christ the High Priest, blood of the new covenant blots out sins under the old covenant.
Gospel. John 8:46-59 If anyone keep my word, he will never see death. Before Abraham came to be, I am.