Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Leitourgia Divina Adiaphora Non Est

Here's a quote from yesterday's excellent post by Pastor Larry Peters on his blog Pastoral Meanderings:

Some suggest that the Confessions do not prescribe a liturgical format, and, to a certain extent that is true, since they do not contain the text or form within their documents. However, they describe what is going on among the churches that confess the Augustana. When they say, "this is what we are doing" (or We are falsely accused of having abolished the Mass), they are not saying "This is what we are doing now but that might change soon" or "This is what some of us are doing" or even "This is the first stage in the reform of the Mass which is ongoing among us...." Their descriptive language is in itself prescriptive since nowhere in the Confessions is their any signal of an intent to vary or deviate from this fundamental statement that is put in confessional form.


Rev. Josh Sullivan said...

I bring this up to pastors who practice contemporary worship 'styles' and they respond with either a) We're doing the Divine Service, just differently; or b) we only subscribe to the doctrinal content of the BoC. Then they usually follow up with a sarcastic question like, "Should we believe the sun revolves around the earth, too?" What this does, it seems to me, is to separate the reformation doctrine from practice, like a rewriting of confessional history. I like Pr. Peter's point here. They don't intend to ever leave the Mass. Thanks for pointing this out.

Martin Diers said...

A confessional study of the liturgy is not easy, because it cannot be presented in soundbites. It requires extensive teaching, more so today than at any time in the recent past, because our laity and ministry are woefully ignorant of their own history (And ignorant pastors are responsible for the ignorant laity - so don't blame the flocks!) But, more than the history, they are ignorant of the doctrine of worship, or even that there is a Biblical doctrine of worship. It is clearly laid out by Christ Himself, and established by the Apostles as the norm for the Church for all time, namely, that we are to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His name, baptize, give the Lord's body and blood, and instruct in all Christian doctrine. These are the things that Jesus specifically bids His Church to do when they assemble together. Because we have a clear prescription from our Lord, however much the precise forms of worship might be adiaphora, no form which does not do the things which Jesus has explicitly bidden us to do can be called true Christian worship! Therefore, unless this is first understood, it will not be possible to instruct our pastors and laity in how the divine liturgy of the Mass fulfills this purpose, whereas all forms of modern contemporary worship do not.

We are quite literally re-fighting the battle for the liturgy that was fought during the Reformation. In both cases, we are dealing with a fanatical spirit which subjectifies the objective. The "sacrifice of the Mass" and the modern contemporary worship / seeker sensitive movement have in common a denial of the means of grace as God's objective imputation of the forgiveness of sins. They replace it with a spiritualistic grasping after God's glory via our own works, whether those works are "fulfilling your obligation" by showing up at the Mass and gaining merit ex opera operato, or by preparing yourself to "enter into the holy of holies" by a progressively ecstatic cycle of mindless or mind-altering psyco-hypnotic praise music (which in itself has much in common with the ascetic mysticism of the past).

And so, while it is certainly useful to demonstrate from the confessions that our churches fully intended to continue the Mass as they had received it (as purified by Luther), it is much more important to demonstrate from those same confessions just what, exactly, Christian worship is, and why the Mass IS true Christian worship, whereas modern contemporary worship is most certainly not.