Too much ceremony? Can there be too much?
I believe there can be.
[Pause, to let the shock of hearing this from the editor of Gottesdienst sink in]
Luther did too, actually. As I recall reading, he nixed a number of the baptismal ceremonies, even while retaining a great many of them, as he felt some of them distracted from the meaning of Baptism itself.
And our Confessions also warn against-what is it?-the baptizing of bells, I think, and other such superfluous ceremonies.
This brings me to the subject of the Vigil of Pentecost.
According to the traditional Western Rite, as I understand it, the Vigil of Pentecost contains a number of rituals not normally seen in Western churches these days, to say nothing of Lutheran churches.
At the third (baptismal) part, the rubrics call for a number of elaborate ceremonies sometimes said to be "of high antiquity" (whatever that means).
The Paschal Candle is in use for this, having returned since its removal after Ascension Day (memo: after the Ascension Gospel is read, the Paschal Candle is extinguished, and after the mass, it is removed altogether).
So among the ceremonies, which take place at the font, the candle is dipped three times in the water, the pastor blows upon the water in the form of a cross and of an upsilon (a very awkward thing to do, it seems to me), and the pastor takes water from the font and casts some in each of the four directions. And there are words and prayers which accompany all this.
So here's my question. Is this a bit too much? Frankly, right now I think so. I have done this in the past, and even then I wondered.
I'm beginning to think that these things strike as adding too much ceremony, to the point of distraction. Using baptismal water for things other than Baptism is problematic, it seems to me. On the other hand, one does use baptismal water to make the sign on one's forehead when this option is available (as, for instance, at the Fort Wayne seminary). But one could argue that in this case the water is being used as a physical reminiscence of actual Baptism.
But in the case of exsufflation on the font, and casting the waters here and there, I think the connection is more difficult to make.
So here I am in the middle. Protestants would recoil at the ceremonies simply becuase they are lavish. And I recoil at the thought of being labeled a Protestant. In the end, I want to do what's right.