Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More ELW, silent L

So far, I have only reviewed the first 9 pages of Evangelical Lutheran Worship. 9 down, 1,202 to go! And so far, I have given a thumbs-up to the Table of Contents, and a thumbs-down to the Introduction. So it could go either way, eh? Eh? All right, I won't kid you. This is going to get nasty.

On page 11, which faces a blank page, there is a full-page piece of 3-color art (red, black, and white) so ugly that it's scary. It appears to be a stylized depiction of the victorious Christ, with tree branches radiating out of his halo, and the sun, moon, and stars caught up in his glory. And you thought the tacky 1970s were dead! Vaguely suggestive of pagan iconography (and having a former witch for a mother, I know a little about that), this piece of art is a grim prophecy of things to come.

Page 13 has a 5-paragraph essay introducing "The Church Year." It takes these five paragraphs to introduce the terminology of principal feasts & observances, seasons, cycles, times, lesser festivals, commemorations, and the propers.

The main Calendar of Sundays and Principal Festivals is on page 14 (including suggested liturgical colors); Lesser Festivals and Commemorations are listed on pages 15-17, which means it is quite a long and inclusive list, compared to other Lutheran hymnals. The calendar is headed by another piece of hideous 3-color art depicting sun, moon, and stars.

Here are some of the interesting things I noted on pp. 15-17 (in addition to the usual apostles' and evangelists' days, etc.): 1 January is the Name of Jesus, but His Circumcision is no longer observed. January observances include Loehe, Martin Luther King ("renewer of society, martyr"), Antony of Egypt, Pachomius, Bishop Henry of Uppsala, Agnes, Lydia, Thomas Aquinas, and all in one shot, Timothy, Titus, and Silas. In February one could observe the Martyrs of Japan, SS Cyril and Methodius, Martin Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King--don't laugh, it happens), Polycarp, and Dcs. Elizabeth Fedde. In March there are George Herbert, John & Charles Wesley, Perpetua and Felicity, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, Gregory the Great, St. Patrick, Joseph ("guardian of Jesus"), Thomas Cranmer, Jonathan Edwards (the 18th-century missionary to American Indians, not the 21st-century presidential candidate), Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Hans Nielsen Hauge (wasn't he the author of a sect from within Lutheranism?), and John Donne.

In April, ELW suggests such observances as Benedict the African, Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, and Lucas Cranach; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mikael Agricola, Olavus & Laurentius Petri, Anselm of Canterbury, Toyohiko Kagawa, and Catherine of Siena. In May: Athanasius, Monica (Augustine's mum), Julian of Norwich, Zinzendorf (a great hymn-writer, but also the author of a Moravian-Pietistic sect), King Erik IX of Sweden, Helena (Constantine's mum), Copernicus and Euler, Calvin (!), Tranovský, and the "Visit of Mary to Elizabeth," which suddenly doesn't sound like a feast of Christ any more.

June observances include Justin Martyr, the Martyrs of Uganda, Pope John XXIII, St. Boniface, Chief Seattle, SS Columba, Aidan, and Bede, SS Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus, Macrina, Onesimos Nesib, Philipp Melanchthon (sharing a date with the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession), Cyril of Alexandria, and Irenaeus. In July there are hymn translators Catherine Winkworth and John Mason Neale, Jan Hus, Benedict of Nursia, Nathan Söderblom, Bartholomé de Las Casas, Birgitta of Sweden, J. S. Bach, Heinrich Schütz, and G. F. Handel; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany; and King St. Olaf of Norway. In August, St. Dominic, St. Lawrence, St. Clare, Florence Nightingale, Clara Maass, Maximilian Kolbe, Kaj Munk, Bernard of Clairvaux (who, besides writing some good hymns, preached the Second Crusade), St. Augustine, and Moses the Black (a dangerous robber who became a hermetic monk).

In September, there are N. F. S. Grundtvig (an important hymn writer, but also the author of what many Lutherans consider a heresy), Peter Claver, John Chrysostom, Holy Cross Day, Cyprian of Carthage, Hildegard of Bingen, Dag Hammarskjöld, and St. Jerome. In October: Francis of Assisi, Theodor Fliedner, William Tyndale, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Antioch, James of Jerusalem, and hymn writers Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt. In November: Martin de Porres, missionaries Heyer, Ziegenbalg, and Nommensen, Martin of Tours, Kierkegaard, Elizabeth of Hungary, Clement of Rome, Miguel Augustín Pro, Justus Falckner, Jehu Jones, William Passavant, and hymn writer Isaac Watts. And finally, in December there are Francis Xavier, John of Damascus (whom the Eastern Orthodox claim as their spiritual father), St. Nicholas (Dec. 6), St. Ambrose, St. Lucy, St. John of the Cross, and Katie Luther ("renewer of the church"). The full calendar of saints contains even more names, many of whom raise suspicions by their presence - suspicions that the ELW targets a "Lutheran" church that is more of this world than of God's kingdom; suspicions that important doctrinal distinctions are being erased in order to present a phony picture of Christian unity.

There are pastors, hymn writers, and missionaries on this list. There are martyrs, musicians, scientists, and "renewers" of both the church and society. And it's a very ecumenical bunch, ranging from Latin and Greek church fathers to Popes, leaders of sects and other denominations, and secular political figures. Clearly there is a strong accent of social activism in the piety of the church intended to use ELW. This suggests that Jesus' words "My kingdom is not of this world" and Luther's emphasis on the Gospel (which is God's service for us) are no longer central to the church targeted by this hymnal.

The Propers begin on page 18, headed by a 3-color "icon" depicting an open book with rays of light coming out of it. Clearly, the use of a 3-year lectionary is assumed. How sad for anyone who is still convinced that a one-year cycle is essential to the very rationale for having a lectionary (i.e., learning by repetition). Each set of propers includes readings from the OT, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel, plus a collect with "Amen" in bold type.

Beginning after Trinity Sunday, the propers are determined by calendar date, as are the propers after Epiphany. This is an interesting and possibly useful innovation (the editors of The Lutheran Service Book did something similar), but one might miss a bit of the continuity between a given "Sunday after Trinity" and the texts historically preached on that day, e.g. in Luther's Postils. This is one reason I have always argued against meddling with the historic lectionary. It divorces today's church from the continuum of preaching and liturgically-based theological writings of past generations - which, a survey of the index of Scripture references in the Tappert Book of Concord shows, includes the Lutheran Confessions!

I'm not going to read every lection and collect in this 3-year series and factor it into this critique. There just isn't time or space for that level of detail. If someone else would like to leave bitchy comments about this section of ELW, he/she is welcome to do so.

On p. 64, there begins a new section titled Prayers for Worship. There is an "Offering Prayer" for each season of the church year, and a "Prayer after Communion" for ditto. The former smack of the eucharistic "offertory" theology that Luther and the Reformation decidedly and deliberately left behind. The latter typically take the form "God, you have fed us with the bread of life; now send us as bread to nourish the world," etc. This is a foretaste of things to come when I get to the Communion Service part of this review. Hint: it smacks of the idea that, by communing with Christ's body in the Eucharist, we involve our own bodies in a kind of redemptive sacrifice for the world. This should raise red flags for Lutheran theologians!

The "Prayers for Worship" section continues with Forms V-XI of "Thanksgiving at Table," of which Forms I-IV are in the Holy Communion service itself. These are not table prayers (i.e. altneratives to "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest"), but eucharistic prayers which, again, seem to be rolling back the Reformation in a very critical way. The Words of Institution are embedded in these prayers, but they are neither the first nor the last word. This could suggest that it is not Christ's Word, but our ritual that effects the presence of the Sacrament. Here is a sample of the obnoxious language used in these prayers: "O God, you are Breath: send your Spirit on this meal. O God, you are Bread: feed us with yourself. O God, you are Wine: warm our hearts and make us one. O God, you are Fire: transform us with hope. O God most majestic, O God most motherly (!), O God our strength and our song, you show us a vision of a tree of life with fruits for all and leaves that heal the nations..." etc.

This section also includes Forms II-V of "Thanksgiving at the Font," of which Form I is in the order of Holy Baptism later in the book. These appear to be alternatives to Luther's "Flood Prayer." Actually, Form IV seems quite similar to the Flood Prayer. Form V gets a bit silly: "Glory to you for oceans and lakes, for rivers and streams. Honor to you for cloud and rain, for dew and snow. Your waters are below us, around us, above us: our life is born in you. You are the fountain of resurrection."

Beginning on p. 72, there is a further section of "Additional Prayers." These include the prayers one can recite before and after worship, before and after communion; collect-type prayers, listed by topic, that one can include in family or personal devotions. These are organized under subtopics, which include Worship, The Church, Congregational Life, Mission, Civic Life, Government, Nations, Social Ministry, Stewardship, Creation, Life Passages, Daily Life, Affirmation of Christian Vocation (actually a brief rite), Healing, and Spiritual Life. This last section includes prayers attributed to Augustine of Hippo. Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta!

On page 89, facing a blank page, there is another three-color eyesore, this time apparently depicting Jesus breaking bread with the two disciples at Emmaus. It actually isn't as bad as some of the other illustrations; it looks somewhat like a stained-glass window.

On page 91, the liturgical section of the hymnal starts with the large heading of Holy Communion, followed by two paragraphs of explanation under the subhead Pattern for Worship. In Paragraph 1, I quite approve of Holy Communion being described as "the principal service of Christian worship," in which "the Holy Spirit gathers people around the means of grace - the saving Word of God and the sacraments." It says Jesus comes to us in the Sacrament with forgiveness, life, and salvation, and God sends us to share good news and care for the needy. Para 2 briefly explains the novel terminology used hereinafter: "gathering, word, meal, sending" - a fourfold division of the Divine Service that will be accented from here on out.

Pages 92-93 expand on this fourfold division, outlining the actions within the Communion Service under each heading, and giving a sort of play-by-play description of what is going on at each point. "Gathering" extends from the beginning of the service through the Prayer of the Day. "Word" includes the readings, sermon, Hymn of the Day, creed, prayers of intercession, and Peace. "Meal" includes the offering (which I think is very significant) and all the liturgy leading up to and away from the celebration of the Lord's Supper. "Sending" may include sending communion out to shut-ins, announcements, the blessing, "sending song" (i.e. closing hymn), and dismissal.

And that brings us up to Holy Communion, Setting One (p. 94), where we will begin next time by wincing at the 3-color illustration that takes up a third of the page.

1 comment:

Marie N. said...

The idea of incorporating social activism into the DS is nausiating indeed. I reject the same in the PLI culture.