Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I needed a laugh today

Most people, who read my ramblings, know that I'm no fan of Pr. Paul McCain, the LCMS' bloviator-in-chief and all around malcontent who appoints himself a modern day St. Athanasius against anyone who may point out the errors of the Lutheran school of thought.  That said, I actually do regularly read his blog to keep up with what's going on in the LCMS and it is a very good blog.  His blog is an excellent model which those who wish to start a blog should model.  Today, I got a good laugh from  this entry.

Pr. McCain calls (actually the author he quotes approvingly calls) the Lutheran church a liturgical church.  Now, I would certainly grant that there are Lutheran churches which use the historic liturgy, but to argue that the whole of Lutherans "knows and appreciates"(from the post; first paragraph) the historic liturgy is denial at best and hypocrisy at worst.  I don't have exact numbers, but I would venture a guess that half of all LCMS congregations do not use the historic Liturgy.  These are churches where contemporary and blended services are the norm and the rule.  Now, they may also offer traditional or historic services too, but those are often relegated to smaller parts of a church or at times when most people would prefer to sleep in rather than attend.  Eventually, those services are replaced by the blended or contemporary ones. 

And those churches that are "liturgical" are not using the historic Western Rite liturgy.  In the current LCMS service books, there are five (5) divine services to choose from.  The third is the most common and most "historic" of the five.  The fifth is a recreation of the "Deutsche Messe" penned by Lutheran which is historic, but only to the mid 16th century. The other three services are "blended" and cut and paste jobs from other Divine Rites including the Byzantine Rite.  Lutherans have never used the Byzantine Rite (save for some Ukrainians who converted to Lutheranism in the early 20th century and brought the Byzantine Rite with them; you can google for more information on this) and the reason most Lutherans don't use the Byzantine Rite is simply because the Byzantine Rite does not match the western Rite ethos of worship.  It is far too mystical and too long.  For those Lutherans who demand a strict hour of worship, the Byzantine Rite would never be considered...but I digress.

My point is that though there is a lot of movement back towards the confessions and the historic practice of Lutheranism in the golden age of Orthodoxy, I'm afraid it is too late for the LCMS.  The ship is still sinking and people are still jumping ship.  The ship may not be sinking as fast and maybe fewer people jumping, but the damage is done.  More and more people are abandoning the LCMS simply because for some 40 years now, the LCMS in its leadership and its seminaries and its ministries to young people had essentially made a bogeyman out of the Liturgy and traditional liturgical practice.  I know they paid lip service to the Liturgy in official pronouncements and such, but whenever the word "liturgy" was uttered, the word "adiaphoron" was not too far behind. (Adiaphoron is a Greek word which roughly translates to "open question."  Liturgy was good, but it was an open question whether or not that should be the norm despite the fact that the confessions strictly say the historic liturgy is the norm). And people like Pr. McCain then wonder aloud and condemn those who jump the sinking ship because people myself refused to go down with it and found ourselves a home by swimming up the Tiber or the Bosphorus.

Again, I do not deny that there are Lutheran churches that are liturgical, but they are not the majority. However, for someone to argue, today, that Lutheranism as a whole and its many branches, whether that be LCMS, ELCA, EDK or some other country's Lutheran church is liturgical and "knows and appreciates" the historic Liturgy is a joke and it needs to be called such.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Don't take communion or you could get the flu!

It's flu season and the CDC and the press are already saying that the sheer amount of flu cases this year has reached epidemic proportions.  Now, I'm no pathologist nor epidemiologist so I'm willing to listen to their suggestions as to how to reduce my exposure to the flu for the sake of my own health and that of my family.  However, one thing I will not do is abstain from the life giving body and blood of our Lord!

Now, I don't believe the CDC has actually made any suggestion for Christians communing during the flu season to stay away from receiving the Eucharist, but that's not stopping congregations and even Archdioceses from implementing policies to remove the blood of Christ from the lips of the faithful! 

First of all, metallic surfaces do not transmit viruses or bacteria and particular metals like copper are well documented for their antimicrobial properties. 

Secondly, those people who abstain from the Eucharist (and those who withdraw it) show what little faith they have in the sacraments.  Such people, I'm assuming,  regard the sacraments as something to be honored and done but that there is no real power behind them.  I wonder why they receive the Eucharist at all!  Is not the Eucharist for the healing of body and soul?  I'm not suggesting that the Eucharist will cure you immediately of your ailment; you still need rest and fluids.  But to stay away from the Eucharist for fear that you may contract or spread the flu shows a real distrust in God and His power as it is contained in the Eucharist. 

It's also incredibly egocentric.  The thought that one person (or even two or three or more) could somehow contaminate the body and blood of Christ for others is absolutely rooted in anthropocentrism--that man is the center of all things, that man affects God's will.

From the news reports, it seems that the Roman Catholics are the one who are leading the charge on this.  Considering that the Roman Catholics for many years withheld the life-giving blood of the Lord from her faithful, this is just another reason for them to reinstitute that flawed Medieval practice.  I'm sure some Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and other denominations are also withholding out of the same (irrational) health fears. 

However, I have never noticed any Orthodox Church every sanctioning such a move.  It could possibly be that there was no press (only the Catholics and Episcopalians and liberal Lutherans get attention from the media, it seems), but I have never seen any directive from any Metropolitan or Bishop in any Orthodox jurisdiction in this country telling parishioners to abstain from the Eucharist.

If you attend a church (I'm only speaking to Orthodox here) where the priest says that sick people should abstain, then you should report that priest immediately to the bishop.  Unless you are under penance and/or excommunication or you have not observed the prayer and fasting prior to receiving, the Eucharist is to be given to you for the sake of the healing of both soul and body.  Because the faithful receive the Body and Blood from the spoon (which is metallic), you will not transmit nor receive the flu.  I'm so sick of these stories and the seemingly faithless people who propagate them.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chanters--God's Directors of Communications

I've been watching episodes of The West Wing on Netflix.  Despite my overall opposition to the political message of this show, it is very well written and the characters, most of them, are very likable and don't sound artificial.  The episode that I watched today which had a scene involving Toby Ziegler, the White House Director of Communications who goes to synagogue to talk with his rabbi about the sermon he was giving on the Sabbath.

As he takes his seat behind the rabbi, he hears a woman practicing her chants for an upcoming funeral.  Toby looks at her with wonder and remarks that he never thought the chanters ever practiced.  The rabbi says that the chanters practice every single day and that they have to.

Skipping forward in the scene, as Toby is getting frustrated by what his rabbi tells him, he prepares to leave but not before he gets in a few parting jabs, accusing the rabbi of having deliberately planted the chanter and her beautiful song so that he would be more amiable to what the rabbi had to tell him.  The rabbi smiles and says that the chanters are God's Directors of Communications.

As a chanter myself, I really liked this scene mainly because I've never thought of myself as God's Director of Communications. It's certainly an apt description.  I have to admit that I don't practice as much as I once did. Having a baby and starting a new job really cut down on any leisure time to do that.  But being a chanter is really hard work and I know that most chanters probably do not get the thanks due them week in, week out for all the work they do (and they do a lot; especially during Great Lent).  My point:  if you're an Orthodox Christian who worships according to the Byzantine Rite, make sure you thank your chanters...a lot.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Checklist for New Year's Resolution

Last year, I made a series of New Year's Resolutions pertaining to my spiritual life.  They were:

1) Read the appointed readings of each day in the original Greek and in the Latin translation according to St. Jerome.
2) Every morning, with or after the morning prayers, read the Hexapsalmi.
3) Small compline every night. It's 15 minutes and it shouldn't be that much of a burden before going to bed.
4) Confession once a month. It's not a requirement, but I think just a good thing to do.
5) Log in less to the discussion boards. Hardening your heart is so easy every time you need to log in and say someone is wrong.
How did I do?

#1)  I did very well with this for about two months and then, once Lent started, I read the Greek less and less and after Pascha I started to read the English less and less to the point that my reading was sporadic at best.

#2)  Utter failure.  Good for about 2 weeks.

#3)  Utter failure.  I did pray it mainly on Saturday evenings but with a kid, it's really hard to get into a nightly routine.

#4)  I maybe did confession once a quarter and should have taken greater advantage of it more often.

#5)  I got off one discussion board I regularly participated in but I found myself getting more involved in others usually taking people to task for their misconceptions and outright distortions of the Orthodox faith. 

This year, I plan on making no definitive resolutions with regard to my spiritual life.  I'll do what I can when I can, but I know that the care of my wife and new son are just as relevant commitments to my spiritual well-being as saying the six psalms, etc.

Happy New Year, everyone!