Thursday, March 29, 2007

What To Do with the Annunciation This Year

Now this is an interesting thing. I put up a little post on Passiontide (below) and, next thing I know there's a huge discussion about it going on over at Fr, Petersen's blog. It seems he's pointed out that my source on the transferral of the Annunciation is Anglican and doesn't agree with the Roman system. Lots of folks have chimed: Pastor McCain has gone on his usual adiaphora rant, while Fr. Curtis has done an admirable job defending the traditional rules, their being adiaphora notwithstanding.

Anyhow, here's my own further musing on the matter, which I also posted over there:

OK, Petersen, I admit to being Anglican on this, and I'll even tell you why (though I gather you already know): it's because when I used the Anglican resource it impressed me so much that I didn't bother to check the Romanist resource. I still haven't. I'm just taking your word for it, because I'm still too lazy to look it up right now.

Actually right now I'm pretty much in agreement with Curtis's posts on this matter, but I have a bit to add.

Although this is adiaphora, it would be best if we saw this as something (among many somethings) on which we ought all come to agreement, and then all do it the same way. There is mass confusion (pun intended) when everyone just does whatever he pleases and cries adiaphora.

Now as to the matter itself: look, if you're going to be liturgical at all, then it's kind of pointless to throw liturgical directions to the wind without even giving them so much as a passing consideration, which is evidently what McCain has consented to, with his 1200 adoring adulators (I could launch into a diatribe on I Corinthians 1 here, how God has chose the things that are not, etc., but I'll resist).

For those who want to try to come to a unified approach on this, here are my reasons for opining that the Anglican system is a bit better; but I admit it isn't set in stone for me.

First, in agreement also with Rome, the integrity of the Sundays in Lent and their interrelation is a matter which ought never to be taken lightly, and goes together with the whole notion of a church year. That's why they're all First Class Sundays, and it makes perfect sense. But since the Annunciation is also First Class, it is not ignored, but transferred, so it also gets its due, all for the edification of God's people. See, you get both this way, which is in agreement with all the venerable traditions.

Second, regarding whether to transfer one day or over two weeks (this is what started this whole debate), I admit to being a bit troubled about celebrating a First Class Feast when everything's veiled, and we're supposed to be excluding all Glorias. That seems to lessen the First Class nature of it. OK, for the Glorias you can make an exception in this case, but remember that you're also making an exception in the case of the Gloria in Excelsis on Maundy Thursday, and soon, with all your exceptions, you can hardly tell the difference, especially for people who don't come every day. So the Anglican reasoning is still the most sensible to me, whatever the source.

Third, I do happen to agree that we are beset with a problem when we transfer something to a date on which few will attend. I think the LSB suggestion for "a weekday" rather than a requirement of Monday following Quasimodogeniti is helpful, but the jury's still out. We'll be observing it on Wednesday after Quasimodogeniti here, only because a healthy number of people come on Wednesdays. Maybe that's a copout, but for now it works, and it serves the purpose of setting the Annunciation before people.

Having said all that, maybe I'd be for getting together, say, for a sort of Lutheran Lambeth Conference of sorts, and deciding how we're all going to do it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


OK, so now your crosses and images are veiled, right? And you've left off singing all Gloria Patris, and have entered the depths of Passiontide. The Propers in The Lutheran Hymnal are wrong at this point; Lutheran Worship partly corrected the error, leaving off the Glorias for Palm Sunday, but condensing Passiontide to one week only, the same as Holy Week. I don't know offhand what Lutheran Service Book did, because they erred in omitting the Propers from the hymnal altogether.

Anyhow, here's where these customs arise, in case you were wondering.

The "hiding" of Jesus, by veiling statuary, crosses, and images, is because of the last part of the Judica Gospel (St. John 8) in which we are told that when the Jews took up stones to cast at Him, "he hid himself," and passed by. So the hiding of Jesus' image is a vivid reminder of what happens when He is not taken seriously: He withdraws. An added reason for penitence thus arises here.

The "hiding" of images of saints is due to the thought that it would be unseemly for a saint not to be hidden if the Master Himself is hidden.

The omission of the Glorias is a further indication of a liturgical descent at this time.

In addition, it is actually not traditional to observe any occasional feasts of any kind during Passiontide. Therefore the new calendars are also wrong, which transfer Annunciation to the day after the 25th. No, it goes the day after the Easter Octave, which this year is Monday, April 16th.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Gottesdienst Day!

I'm beginning to think that maybe Fr. William Weedon is a very wise man. Why, you may ask? Well naturally, because it is evident that he thinks I am a very wise man. Thanks for the kudos, Fr. Weedon! Here's what he wrote, over at Weedon's Blog . . .

Each time I think the periodical Gottesdienst couldn't get any better, Fr. Fritz pulls a fast one. There's much to be commended in the latest edition, but the top reading, in my opinion, is from Fr. Fritz himself. He has written a little opinion piece called "Lutheran Identity Crisis?" VERY worth the read. What does it say? Well, subscribe and find out! [to do so, click here!]

Oh, all right. All right. Just one teasing bit:

"This leaves the restless among us to consider flight to one of the historic episcopates. Some have been known to get a bit misty-eyed about the historic episcopates, an understandable weakness for the liturgically aware.... The temptation is palpable. A bishop comes along who actually looks and acts like a bishop, and whose churches actually look and act like churches, and it's no wonder we fumbling Lutherans look up from our sandboxes and wonder if maybe there's something we're missing over here. Well, of course there is! Our churches don't look or act like churches. That's what is missing."

Oh, so much more. And very tasty. Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Legend of the Gargoyle

This piece and that which follows below (the reprinting of a speech posted earlier) are offered concurrently with the mailing of the current issue of Gottesdienst (to subscribe, click here) which references both posts.

The new drop caps for Gottesdienst are a fancy design meant to complement our traditional and somewhat repristinating style. In the midst of our deliberations over what to use, one intriguing form of fonts called Celtasmigoria was briefly considered, a form in which various Gargoyles are found in positions like the letters of the alphabet (to access this and other free fonts at the web site DaFont, click here and see under Gothic > Celtic). Although we decided that would be a bit extreme and so dismissed the idea, there arose in the midst of our considerations this fascinating history of the appearance of Gargoyles on the rainspouts of medieval churches.

The word "Gargoyle" shares a common root with the word "gargle," which comes from the French gargouille, "throat." A true gargoyle is a waterspout. The word is also derived from the Latin “gurgulio” and is therefore onomatopoetic, meaning “throat” and sounding like the water which gurgles as it passes through the throat. A gargoyle makes a gurgling sound as water passes through the waterspout.

Legend has it that a fierce dragon named La Gargouille with a long neck and membranous wings lived in a cave near the river Seine. The dragon caused much fear and destruction with its fiery breath, spouting water and devouring ships and men. Each year, the residents of Rouen would placate Gargouille with an offering of a victim, usually a criminal, though it was said the dragon preferred maidens. Around 600, the village was saved by St. Romanus, who promised to deal with the dragon if the townspeople agreed to be baptized and to build a church. Romanus, armed with only a crucifix, subdued the dragon by making the sign of the cross, and then led the now docile beast back to town on a leash made from his priest's robe. La Gargouille was then burned at the stake, it is said that his head and neck were so well tempered by the heat of his fiery breath, that they would not burn. These remnants were then mounted on the town wall and became the model for gargoyles for centuries to come.

Now this is a legend, of course. No one knows for sure just what is the exact history or rationale for gargoyles. But the grain of truth in this legend is that it carries with it the Christus Victor theme. That is, a demon’s head is placed on a stake, in token of his demise. No wonder those who embellished churches saw fit to place them high on the roofs.

Dr. Eckardt's Address at the 2007 Sabre of Boldness Ceremony

The current, just-published issue of Gottesdienst (to subscribe, click here) contains an article on the January 2007 Sabre ceremony at Fort Wayne, in which Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn of St. Louis received the annual Sabre of Boldness award. The following is the text of Fr. Eckardt's address to the assembly prior to the granting of the award.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your kairos, as a former synodical president used to like to say. It’s your appointed time. It’s time to stand and be counted, and time to make your stance known. And speaking of time, Time magazine has it right: the man of the year is You. You da man. You have left your homes, you have taken up the call. You have arisen to defend the cause of a faith worth dying for. You were in the field, you were grinding at the mill, you were eating and drinking, you were marrying and giving in marriage, and you stopped everything. You heard the trumpet sound, and you came. To arms! To arms! you heard. You donned your armor, you rose to the challenge, and you prepared to march. Yes, you heard that the grand Sabre of Boldness was about to be drawn, so you came.

Well, okay, maybe that’s overstating the matter just a hair. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that you’re really just here to attend a symposium. Still, I’d like to think there is some truth to the idea that you like to be in the company of compatriots all bent on confessing the same Gospel.

In the year 1095, when Urban II called faithful men to arms, he told them how the infidel Turks were advancing into the heart of eastern Christendom. Christians were being oppressed and attacked; the holy places were being defiled; and Jerusalem was groaning under the Saracen yoke. The Holy Sepulchre was in Muslim hands. To arms! said Urban, for God himself will lead you; you will be doing His work. God wills it!, said he.

Nine hundred years later, it is infidel rock musicians who are advancing into the heart of Christendom. And it’s Christians’ ears that are being oppressed and attacked by the pounding of barbarian drumming and the twang of electric guitars; it’s the holy and sacred liturgy that is being defiled; and it’s Wittenberg that’s groaning under the Willow Creek yoke. The Holy Altar is in the hands of buffoons; and their teenage daughters are dancing around it as before a golden calf; and too many Lutherans are either utterly fooled or utterly tempted by this hedonism thinly disguised as contemporary worship; they can’t help themselves, so they join right in, at the expense of everything they used to call holy.

But today there are no Crusades, there will be army of Red Cross Christians marching to regain our Holy Lands. A sword will be drawn tonight, but only as a gesture symbolic of resistance. The arms to which you are being called are the arms of spiritual warfare, as the Apostle has described it.

Maybe it’s just my own fertile imagination, but it seems to me that this thing gets bigger every year. It started small; it was just a mustard seed, when, twelve years ago a few random Lutheran gentlemen sitting with Lutheran beverages in a Holiday Inn right here in Fort Wayne hatched the idea of handing out an annual award for boldness. In fact, it was just a whim back then, just a twinkle in the eye. But as soon as it hatched, it seemed to catch on. It seems that folks just love nominating people for this thing.

I guess we all still want our heroes. And ever since the greatest ones in our generation died, we have longed for more of them. In the church, there was Robert Preus, and in the world there was Ronald Reagan. So now we look for more heroes, and we rejoice when we see glimpses. We hear of soldiers like Jason Dunham who died last Thursday because he jumped on a live grenade to save his buddies; and we remember churchmen like Kurt Marquart, who never flinched when standing toe to toe with bureaucrats who flaunted their authority. Our need for heroes has never waned, even if the cultural icons of liberalized America would scold us for having it. They have even altered the heroes of our modern mythology. Dirty Harry has almost been forgotten, cowboys have gone gay, and, unbelievably, Lois Lane was last seen saving Superman. Where have all the heroes gone?

The very existence of the Sabre of Boldness is testimony to our perennial quest for heroes. I might add that it’s this very fact that gives us poor, miserable Gottesdienst editors the idea that we can grant anyone an award of any kind in the first place. Whoever gave us that right? I keep thinking—hoping, really—that the longevity of the award, now in its twelfth year, will somehow serve to provide it with a legitimacy which, if the truth be known, we could never provide. Then again, I have to remind myself that this award really has no benefactors. It’s merely something given as a simple acknowledgment, a humble doffing of the hat, toward someone we wish to designate with that lofty and elusive title hero.

And yet, the Sabre’s recipients over the past eleven years would doubtless blush at the very notion of being called heroes. Heroes? they’d say. We aren’t heroes; Christ is our Hero. Saints and martyrs are our heroes. John the Baptist was a hero; the Holy Twelve were heroes; Stephen, Polycarp, Perpetua, Laurence—people like them were heroes. Or even like Martin Luther. They are the heroes, not we. And who could gainsay that correction? Or dare to add to so august a list of heroes as that with the names of our own compatriots?

Then again, what’s the difference between an apostle or prophet who suffers for doing his duty and a simple pastor or layman who suffers as a Christian today? Which of the heroes of old ever stood and said, count me in! I’m a hero too! Rather, they would all said with John, I must decrease. And so too must this award be understood rightly, lest it be misunderstood as a sort of self-congratulatory thing among us confessional Lutherans. We are not here to award ourselves, certainly. And even if we were to admit that maybe there is a tinge of ego that shamelessly arises in the heart whenever a man secretly wishes he were the one picked—you know, like the donkey in Shreck—we who have our theology right can at least recognize the Old Adam for who he is, and wish ourselves rid of him once and for all. No, this award is for someone else. It’s not for us. It’s never for us. It’s for our heroes. And yes, we do still have them, though they often walk among us unnoticed. Indeed, the recipient of the Sabre bears the Sabre not for himself alone, but, we hasten to add, for all of the unsung heroes in the world, who in the simple course of doing their Christian duty, have quietly steeled their chins against the devil, and refused to let him have his way. When threatened, they were not intimidated; when enticed, they were not fooled; when tempted, they did not fall; and when pressured, they did not yield.

It is this multitude of simple heroes that we salute tonight. In granting this award to one, the truth is that we seek to honor many. We can’t name you, for you are too numerous, and too unsung—you are not really known to us; we only see glimpses of you here and there, in the little acts of courage born of a Christian heart which takes its stand, when it can do no other.

+ Burnell F. Eckardt, Jr.

Editor-in-Chief, Gottesdienst

18 January 2007

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gottesdienst Cometh!

Beware the Ides of March!

It is the day on which the white great steed Gottesdienst is scheduled to bolt out of the barn, traverse the fields of liturgical malaise, and bring hope and joy to the poor peasants put upon by the paltry, pusillanimous picadillos of praise bands.

Oh ye bureaucratic bunglers! Beware the Ides of March!

The rest of us--well, those of us who are subscribers-- may look forward to the following (to subscribe, click here):

Our Makeover

Three Sermons

Oculi Larry L. Beane

Maundy Thursday Erik J. Rottmann

Holy Saturday Paul Gregory Alms

Liturgical Observer

Lutheran Identity Crisis?

Burnell F. Eckardt Jr.

Ha! Ha! Among the Congregants

A Guest Essay Peter M. Berg

Commentary on the War

How to Make Confession: Just Do It

David H. Petersen

Sabre of Boldness

Strategy for Victory Jonathan E. Shaw

Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn Receives Sabre

Bearers of the Sabre

When Mist Was Rising from the Land

A Poem Kathryn Ann Hill

Occurrence and Priority of Feasts

Pondering the Holy Liturgy

The Introit Burnell F. Eckardt Jr.

Gottesdienst Memorandum

Musing on the Mysteries

Shadows of the Substance

Exodus 26:1-37 Karl F. Fabrizius

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Freedom of Libel

The Scooter Libby trial is over, but the spin continues. I am hoping the American public is not so blind as to see the shameless refusal of the media to acknowledge that Valerie Plame was not a spy, which means she was never outed, which also means that Scooter Libby had no motive to lie to the FBI or to anyone. Memo to the AP: Valerie Plame was not "outed" and you know it well; you know, as does everyone else involved, that she was never covert! Shouldn't the freedom of the press be mitigated somehow by refusing to the press the freedom to lie? Shouldn't the press be held to some standard of objectivity that warns it against spinning stories so as to make political enemies look bad, but which in the meantime ruin a man's reputation? Isn't that a kind of libel? I wish someone would sick a special prosecutor on them for a change; what they did to Mr. Libby is a crime.

The poor man assumed he had nothing to hide, so he went ahead and tried to remember conversations, and in the end contradicted himself. This is common, and it happens to everyone all the time, and there's nothing sinful about it, as memory is such a treacherous thing. Just don't let it happen to you in court, or you could end up with a conviction at the hands of a merciless prosecutor.

So now everyone has his hands dirty, it seems, except for Scooter Libby himself. The prosecutor certainly does, and so do both sides of the political aisle. Why the Bush Administration went forth with this monkey trial I'll never know, or at least, why they didn't call off the dogs once it was clear that it was Richard Armitage who supplied the information everyone had originally supposed came from Libby (and besides, So what? Ms. Plame was not a spy!). And when the truth about Mr. Armitage came out, the prosecution suppressed it, as it would (naturally) have affected their case. But I suppose it would have been too much for the Administration to deal with if they backed off now, which is to say, the political fallout would have been too much to bear. I thought this President was one who said he didn't care about political fallout. Just do the right thing! Meanwhile now the Democrats have jumped in anyway, and demanded more blood, wanting the scalp of the Vice President himself, whose aide Libby was. Harry Reid had the gall to say the other day that this is the first conviction of someone in the White House in over a hundred years (H'mm, somewhere in the back of my mind is the memory of some Clinton guy, but never mind). And now they're saying it doesn't matter what he lied about, he lied! (H'mm, wasn't there something in the case of that Clinton guy about the fact that lying about personal stuff didn't matter?) It's amazing to me that the jurors were not given information about the Valerie Plame situation which would make it abundantly clear that Mr. Libby had no reason to lie. He was caught by people who make it their life's business to see if they can't twist someone's tongue.

The reason this is all so very sad is that so many people seem to have forgotten about poor Scooter Libby himself. Luther says well in the Large Catechism that a man's reputation can't stand being played with. Well, this man's reputation has certainly been played with, and it is my hope that somebody fix the travesty. Mr. President, I hope you're listening to the advice the Wall Street Journal gave you yesterday: the time for a pardon is now. And an apology would be nice too.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I can say it better than God did, V.

To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:10)

Here we have a beautiful and concise description of St. Paul’s exercise of the Office of the Keys. His offer of forgiveness is apostolic, which means that, as our catechism puts it so well, it is “as valid and certain in heaven also as if our dear Lord had dealt with us Himself.” But here it is even clearer than that, for St. Paul’s offer of absolution is “in the person of Christ.” What a marvelous declaration of the Office: he is bold to say that his exercise of it is not merely in the stead of Christ, but in His person (Greek: prosopon). Wow, that’s going a bit far! Imagine if such a thing were found in a new hymn or document sent to an LCMS doctrinal reviewer! It would never pass!

No wonder the Calvinists who translated the New International Version could not stomach such a bold assertion. So they had to change this just enough to make it acceptable to their sensitivities. The NIV has thus re-rendered it thus:

If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake.

Leave it to the Calvinists (and some pretty blind Lutherans who follow their lead) to misunderstand the Office of the Holy Ministry. By the way, all you Lutherans who like to get misty-eyed about how great the English Standard Version is, here’s how the ESV has followed suit:

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.

In the presence of Christ? Oh sure, that’s what prosopon means! Not! It’s a simple Greek noun, and it doesn't mean sight or presence. It means person. Deal with it, fellas. And quit messing with the Sacred Scriptures.

(Thanks, and a tip of the hat to Rev. Chad Kendall.)