Friday, December 26, 2008

The Christmas Octave + Four

The Twelve Days of Christmas extend the Christmas celebration until the eve of the Epiphany (Twelfth Night). This Octave plus Four is unique in the calendar of the Western Rite. In a manner of speaking, it is an Octave of Octaves.

The Octave Day of Christmas is January 1, the Feast of the Circumcision, the Eighth Day of Christmas.

St. Stephen's, St. John's and Holy Innocents' days are the second, third and fourth days of Christmas. Traditionally, these three days were also celebrated with octaves of their own - on the ninth, tenth and eleventh days of Christmas.

Lutherans usually do not mark the fifth, sixth and seventh days of Christmas. With respect to Pastor William Cwirla, there are three martyrs days within the Twelve Days of Christmas. In addition to St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas of Canterbury (Becket) is on the fifth day of Christmas. At the instigation of King Henry II, he was murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170.

The seventh day of Christmas is St. Sylvester, Bishop of Rome, when Constantine, the first Christian emperor, put an end to persecutions and established Christianity as the religion of the empire. Sylvester, through his representatives, presided at the council of Nicea (A.D. 325). He died A.D. 335.

December 30, the sixth day of Christmas, is the only feria during the Twelve Days. Usually this day is observed with the propers assigned to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, even if it does not fall on Sunday.

This, then, is how Christmas is celebrated as an Octave plus Four - The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus

Today you shall know that the Lord will come.


All this night shrill chanticleer,
Day's proclaiming trumpeter,
Claps his wings and loudly cries,
Mortals, mortals, wake and rise!
See a wonder Heav'n is under;
From the earth is risen a Sun
Shines all night, though day be done.

Wake, O earth, wake ev'ry thing!
Wake and hear the jou I bring;
Wake and joy; for all this night
Heav'n and ev'ry twinkling light,
All amazing, Still stand gazing.
Angels, powers, and all that be,
Wake and joy this Sun to see.

Hail, O Sun, O blessed Light,
Sent into the world by night!
Let thy rays and heav'nly powers
Shine in these dark souls of ours;
For most duly Thou art truly
God and man, we do confess;
Hail, O Sun of Righteousness!

From 'Devotionis Augustinianae Flamma by William Austin, of Lincolnes Inne Esquire', who died 16 January 1633 (published 1635). There is a monument to him in St. Saviour's Southwark. [Oxford Book of Carols. ]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What to do on Dec. 28 and Jan. 4.

Much discussion has arisen concerning which Mass is to be celebrated on December 28, 2008. "This is the Feast of the Holy Innocents; but should we, perhaps, celebrate the Sunday after Christmas instead?"

In the pre-Vatican II missal, the Mass for Sunday within the Octave of Christmas (Sunday after Christmas, if you will), is to be celebrated on December 30th no matter what day of the week this falls on, should Christmas or any of the three days following fall on a Sunday. In the event that either Dec. 29th or Dec. 31st should fall on a Sunday, the Mass to be said on Dec. 30 is that of the Octave of the Nativity which is the same as the Third Mass of Christmas. The Epistle and Gospel, however, are to be taken from the Second Mass of Christmas. Dec. 30 is the only ferial day in the old calendar. Dec. 29 is St. Thomas of Canterbury, and Dec. 31 is St. Sylvester.

Then come the question of what to do for the Second Sunday after Christmas? You may follow this discussion at Gottesdienst Online. (Dec. 12 - What to do with Sundays after Christmas?)

According to the pre-Vatican II missals, the solution to this problem is easily solved. The propers assigned to the Second Sunday after Chrstmas are traditionally those of the Vigil of the Epiphany. TLH actually uses (most of) these propers for the Sunday after Christmas.

Introit: When all was still and it was midnight.... (TLH - Sunday after Christmas, second place.)

Almighty and everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure.... (TLH - Sunday after Christmas.)

Epistle: Gal 4:1-7 (TLH - Sunday after Christmas)

Gradual: Thou art fairer than the children of men.... (TLH - Sunday after Christmas.)

Gospel: Matt 2:19-23 (TLH - Sunday after New Year, TLH beginning at v. 13.)

Preface: Christmas.

This solution is in agreement with the historic use and the TLH propers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Advent, Christmas and a Calendar Change.

A few years ago, an LCMS pastor opined that Christians would be better served if some of the things about Advent and Christmas were changed. Changed, in this case, was to be understood as reshaped and rescheduled. The mixture of the secular and sacred aspects of these seasons only serve to dilute both.

The confusion of the secular and sacred is understandable; especially when we are to be living in the world, but not of the world. But to make changes to the ancient cycle of the year is not the problem of the calendar.

Advent is the first season of the Church Year. It is, by definition, a season of preparation. The Feast of the Nativity, however, is not the sole focus of Advent. One of the ancient collects for Advent prays: "Mercifully hear, O Lord, the prayers of Thy faithful people, that as they rejoice in the Advent of Thine only-begotten Son according to the flesh, so when He cometh a second time in His majesty, they may receive the reward of eternal life."

The Nativity of our Lord is the source of our salvation; but Advent is also focused on the final Advent, the return of our Lord in the fulness of His power. The Church Year ends with a focus on the end times, and Advent keeps us pointed in the same direction.

The momentum that this pastor wished to build up as we move toward Christmas is easily diluted by the commercialism of the world we live in. How many times do you see Christmas trees in your neighbor's windows on the day after Thanksgiving, and at the curb on the day after Christmas? So much for the commercialized momentum toward Christmas.

The momentum that truly builds up toward the Feast of the Nativity should be nothing more than the momentum described in the historic Introit for the Sunday after Christmas: "When all was still, and it was midnight, Thy almighty Word, O Lord, descended from the royal throne."

This miraculous, subtle momentum was endured by the Blessed Virgin, witnessed by the barnyard animals, announced to humble shepherds, and saught after by the Magi. Thus was the beginning of our redemption.

Rather than reshape and reschedule the cycle of the Church Year, it is more important that we preserve the historic calendar and be guided by the liturgy that has guided the generations that have preceded us.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Feast of All Saints

Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystery of the body of this Son Christ our Lord: grant us grace to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living; that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Ghost; ever one god, world without end. Amen.

The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee; the goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee; the white-robed army of Martyrs praise thee; all thy Saints and Elect with one voice do acknowledge thee, O blessed Trinity, One God.

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel

In the fifth century, the 29th day of September, coinciding with the anniversary of the Dedication of several important churches under the invocation of St. Michael the Archangel, began to be regarded as an appropriate day for the yearly solemn commemoration of the Holy Angels. It soon thereafter became of universal celebration as a high festival. Of the Holy Angels, who are numbered by millions (Daniel 7:10) holy Church venerates, in an especial manner, besides St. Michael their Prince, Saints Gabriel (March 18) and Raphael (October 24), of whom names have been revealed to us, and those who have been appointed to be the particular Guardians of men (October 2 - Holy Guardian Angels).

From the Roman Missal, Seventh Edition, Benziger Brothers, 1936.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Historically, Lutherans have regularly celebrated only two festivals of the Blessed Virgin Mary - the Purification and the Annunciation. These two festivals were continued by Luther in his statements "Concerning the Order of Public Worship." (LW, vol. 53, Liturgy and Hymns, p. 14.)
In this statement Luther also continued, for the time being, her Assumption (August 15) and her Nativity (September 8).

A 1731 Lutheran calendar retains the title The Assumption of Mary. Loehe's 1868 calendar styles it as The Homecoming of Mary. Both of these calendars retain the festival of The Nativity of Mary.

These festivals have begun to be included in various Lutheran calendars during the last 40 years. The Assumption is generally renamed St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord (St. Mary, Mother of God). The Nativity of Mary is usually overlooked.

No matter by what name we title this festival, it is the day we commemorate the falling asleep of the Mother of God, comforted in the arms of her son and Lord, Jesus Christ.

A Office hymn of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Quem Terra, pontus, sidera

The God whom earth, and sea, and sky
Adore, and laud, and magnify,
Whose might they own, whose praise they swell,
In Mary's womb vouchsafed to dwell.

The Lord whom sun and moon obey,
Whom all things serve from day to day,
Was by the Holy Ghost conceived,
Of her who through His grace believed.

How blest that Mother, in whose shrine
The great Artificer divine,
Whose hand contains the earth and sky,
Once deigned, as in his ark, to lie:--

Blest in the message Gabriel brought,
Blest by the work the Spirit wrought;
From whom the Great Desire of earth
Took human flesh and human birth.

All honour, laud and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to thee,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost for evermore. Amen.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Rubrics" and the Treasury of Daily Prayer

In the light of the previous discussions re. rubrics and hyper-ritualizing, I am a bit surprised to find extremely detailed instructions in the How to Use section of The Treasury of Daily Prayer.

"The ribbons are used, in the order and for the purposes as indicated in the list that follows. If you use this order, you are less likely to tangle the ribbons as you use the Treasury."

"Dark Green = marks the Church Year calendar section."
"Gold = marks the current day in the Church Year."
"Red = marks the order of prayer you are using (all orders are in the center of the book)."
"Purple = marks the additional prayers you may choose to use daily."
"Light Green = marks your place in the Psalms."
"Blue = marks "Prayers for the Baptized Life" or any place in the book of your choice."

There follows, then, "detailed, step-by-step" instructions on how to correctly insert the ribbons into the book, how to use them to (correctly) mark the appropriate sections of the book, and how to manipulate them during the recitation of the office.

What I found most amusing about this set of instructions is this statement: "If you use this order, you are less likely to tangle the ribbons...." This, I think, is the ultimate of hyper-ritualizing.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rubrics, Reservation & Mass

Recently, there has been debate on a particular blog that calls into question the use of medieval rubrics (i.e. hyper-ritualism) in the Lutheran Divine Service. This was followed by post that states that Lutherans do not practice Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. Then followed a postulation that the Real Presence of our Lord's Body and Blood evaporates from the bread and wine at the end of the service (the benediction). This was then followed by a suggestion that is it is (almost) un-Lutheran to refer to the Divine Service as the Mass. I have no problem with the various comments that were posted in reply to these questions; but I do have a few problems with the original statements.

Rubrics, in and of themselves, have no bearing on the validity or efficacy of the sacrament being celebrated. It was also suggested that we should not adopt or adapt outdated Roman rubrics or invent new rubrics where none exist (as in the LSB).

Rubrics are the directions that keep everything on track. They are the outline and framework that defines the basic form and pace of the service. Just because a particular rubric is absent from an approved service book (LSB), this is not to be understood as a suppression of that particular rubric. The historical rubrics of he Western Rite are as much the rubrics of the Lutheran Church as they are of the Roman Church. We can and should use those that instruct and edify; but reject those that compromise the Gospel.

The suggestion that the bread and wine of the Eucharist cease being the Body and Blood of Christ when the Service is concluded has all of the marks of a receptionist theology. Granted, this post began by stating that Lutherans oppose the practice of reserving the Sacrament. It was said that Luther himself forbade the practice.

Even in the light of extra usum nullum sacramentum, I cannot comprehend the idea that the Body and Blood of Christ in His Holy Sacrament has a shelf life or an expiration date. Unless I am persuaded by Scripture that this is indeed so, I prefer to err by reserving the Relique rather than to err by assuming that the Real Presence expires at the end of Mass. Without proof, I will not impose limits upon the word and power of Christ.

To debate the use of the word/name Mass in Lutheran circles is akin to Don Quixote tilting as windmills. Luther and the Reformation fathers retained both the word and the liturgy called the Mass. If we are to be advised to abandon the use of this word because it has too much baggage attached to it, I would suggest that much of this baggage might have been attached thereto by those who do not understand the proper use of this term.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Misericordia(s) Domini

"Misericordia Domini plena est terra."

In Lutheran circles, this is a typo that may live forever.

In the Western Rite all of the Masses celebrated during the year are named according to the opening words of their Latin Introits. Thus, Masses are referred to by their name, not by the day on which they are celebrated. This is especially true when references are made to the various Masses for Feast Days (the Common Masses).

Lutherans assign names to the Sundays in Advent, in Lent and from Easter to the Ascension; but these are only an exception. To review the names of every Sunday of the year, look at the Calendar posted on

It is my opinion that this typo is a carry-over from the Kirchen-Agende printed by CPH in 1922. The Evangelical Lutheran Hymn Book (CPH, 1924) retained this typo as does The Lutheran Hymnal (CPH, 1941). The Service Book and Hymnal (as recently as 1979 printing) does not contain this typo. Since I do not have a copy of the LSB, I do not know if the LSB perpetuates this typo; but I know that LSB users do perpetuate it.

Now, while I am on a roll, I will jump ahead to the Third Sunday after Easter - Rogate. Following the naming convention mentioned above, only the CPH 1922 Kirchen-Agende bows to tradition. i.e "Am fünften Sontag nach Ostern, genannt Rogate, oder Vocem Jucunditatis. "With a voice of singing...", as the introit says.

This may be nit picking; but what else is a traditionalist supposed to do?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Paschal Candle

In that Easter is little more than two weeks away, I have posted an article written by the Rev. Kenneth E. Runge, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church (1939 - 1974), Detroit, Michigan. In this article, Fr. Runge explains the features of the Paschal CandlePrincipal Features of the Paschal Candle and Their Spiritual Significance.

The title of this post links directly to this article.

Your comments are always appreciated.

Friday, February 22, 2008

An Announcement

I am happy to announce the resurrection of the BOC Journal website which is dedicated to the publication of "The Bride of Christ" and Lutheran Liturgical Renewal.

You are invited to visit the web site to read the full announcement.

A companion blog has been created for the purpose of discussing issues related to the journal and Lutheran Liturgical Renewal. The web page announcement lists several suggestions for discussion topics.

Please visit these sites and give us your suggestions as we rebuild the Journal.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Sanctus and Beyond

In the Lutheran use, from the Sanctus onward the liturgy consists of common forms that do not vary as do the propers of the day. There may be two or three options regarding post-Communion collects; but the variations are still of the common.

Deferring to Fr. Eckardt's Liturgical Seminar, I will offer a few alternatives to his remarks on the remaining portions of the Liturgy.

Concerning the Sanctus, I am in agreement. It is good to note that he recommends a low bow during the Seraphic ascription (Holy, holy, holy,...), and indicates an erect posture during the Hosanna. Again, a slight bow is made at Blessed is He...., and erect again for the final Hosanna. In many places it seems to be the custom to retain a bowed posture until the beginning of the Blessed is He.... To me, this is akin to shouting "Hurrah!" while maintaining a submissive posture.

Concerning the Our Father, Luther and St. Gregory aside, I may not fully agree that the Our Father has a consecratory nature. As for Piepkorn's discouragement of ringing bells (ie. the Prayer Bell) during its recitation, Rubrics for the Ringing of Tower Bells directs that "The bell shall be rung throughout the praying of the Lord's Prayer in Divine Worship at whatever place in the Liturgy or Orders it may be said, Whether morning or evening, Sunday or weekday."

I do, however, lament the post-Vatican II change that gave the Our Father to the entire congregation, at least during the Mass and the Baptismal rite. If the Lord's Prayer does have a consecratorial (or blessing) aspect, it seems strange to have the entire congregation participate in this consecration or blessing. However, I can imagine the reaction if we would "remove" the Lord's Prayer from the general congregation and restore the former use of The Lutheran Hymnal.

From this point on, the remainder of the Liturgy does not vary. The only variables are the ceremonies attached to these stages of the Liturgy. The Verba, the Pax, the Agnus Dei, distribution and post-distribution remain the same. The Ablutions may be taken at the altar or may done in the sacristy after Mass. The Nunc Dimittis and post-Communion collect remain unchanging, with established exceptions.

At this point I would ask for your comments on two points.

1. I have a copy of Propers of the Service for the Church Year, set to Gregorian Psalm-Tones, by Albert Olai Christensen and Harold Edward Schuneman. These are based upon the Common Service Book, and was published by H. W. Gray Company, date not available.

When/why did Lutherans discontinue the use of the Proper Offertories, especially for Sundays?

2. When/why did Lutherans discontinue the use of Proper Post-Communion Collects, especially for Sundays? I know that the proper post-Communions for Saint's days tend to be sacrificial in nature; but the Sunday collects are generally oriented to the Gospel of the day.

I await your comments.