Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Beauty of Hearing the Words of Institution

Read this from Pr. Will Weedon's blog:
I suppose it ill becomes a Lutheran to comment upon a Roman Mass, for I'm not a Roman Christian and have no intention of ever becoming one. But I can't pass up the opportunity.

Pope Benedict XVI restored a year ago the right to celebrate the extraordinary rite - the Latin Mass - to any priest. I've not watched the whole before and was curious, so I checked out the service. The music was, of course, beautiful. The ceremony was, for this Lutheran pastor, a bit over the top - now I know what Chemnitz referred to when he criticized the Roman high mass as "theatrical." But the most deeply disturbing moment for me as a Lutheran Christian came during the consecration. This was accomplished with the priest speaking under his breath. The result was that no one assembled got to hear the Verba Christi, the great promise which stands at the heart and center of the Holy Eucharist. I've known for donkey years that that's how the Mass used to be; but knowing it is different from observing it. The observation was downright painful.

Watching during this gaping silence made me quite sad for my fellow Christians in the Roman jurisdiction; and it made me profoundly thankful for the Lutheran Reformation. In all our services, no matter what poverty of ceremony they may have (from a Roman viewpoint), the very words of Christ ring out (and are often SUNG out) as the very heart of the Divine Service. "My Body, given for you...My Blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins!" Surely if Vatican II did ONE thing right with the Roman liturgy, it was putting the canon into the vernacular and having it said aloud so that Christ's people can hear and hold in faith to the wonderful words of our Savior.

Don't get me wrong; the Latin Mass is very beautiful, but its beauty simply pales when you think about taking away from Christ's people the hearing of His Testament. There is no beauty on earth more beautiful than the words, spoken on the night of His betrayal, by our Savior, and repeated now and until the Parousia in the Savior's stead and by His command, for the joy of His people.

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