quod pro nobis traditum est

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Adiaphora" and its relation to liturgical collapse

The reformers introduced "adiaphora" as an argument to uphold their understanding of liturgical practice in light of the Gospel. "Adiaphora" (lit. "indifferent things") was argued as a defense against the use of various traditions of the Roman Church that the reformers deemed unacceptable. Often overlooked is all that the reformers kept in the historic liturgy as a faithful continuation of both the Gospel and the catholic tradition. Today the idea of "adiaphora" is used to introduce new and different practices that make a clear break with the past. In other words, "adiaphora" is used against the same Gospel-bearing liturgy (the deposit of faith).

The continued emphasis on "adiaphora" as a basis for determining liturgical practice among the heirs of the Reformation has resulted in liturgical chaos and collapse. Without rehearsing all of the different manifestations of this that are present today it seems best to return to how this might have come about.

Below are some brief thoughts regarding the relation of "adiaphora" to liturgical collapse:

1.) As in other areas of life in the Church the reformers sought a true confession of the faith. In terms of the liturgy the reformers were concerned about subtracting anything in the liturgy that they considered as detracting from that true confession. One way this took place was in viewing the liturgy in terms of "confession" which unfortunately detracted from viewing the liturgy in its primary role as prayer. The liturgy, being public, was seen primarily as a contrast of the gathered group and that group's beliefs over against that of the Catholic Church on the one side and the radicals on the other. Hence liturgy marked one gathering from another but became considered "prayer" only in a secondary sense. Liturgy as prayer was no longer a primary purpose. This is reflected, for example, in the irresponsible rejection today of the historic lex orandi, lex credendi.

2) Related to #1 the reformers, both intentionally and not, created new liturgies that reflected best their view of the faith and the Church. As the Reformation spread and new branches were formed new strains of the liturgy became evident. Today, with the multiplication of denominations and groups within denominations of the protestant tradition every sort of "liturgy" is apparent. "Adiaphora" is used as a basis and rationale for the existence of this multiplication of liturgies. A consequence, whether intentional or not, is that even the inherited mainstays of the historic liturgy are denigrated and/or replaced. Newer is better. Even confession is denigrated in favor of style of music. The congregation gathered for prayer becomes an "audience" of religious consumers who gather for a variety of forms of Christian entertainment. The faith is neither prayed nor confessed but is synthesized with the feelings of popular culture. Liturgical prayer is replaced with musical and visual effects determined by marketing standards. The historic liturgy is more than an obstacle, it is the enemy. Liturgy as prayer is replaced with liturgy as a means to multiple ends.

3) "Adiaphora" as basis and rationale for liturgical practice is anthropocentric in that it is more concerned with being relevant to individuals than with uniting the liturgy and the Church with transcendent truth and reverent prayer to God above. The door is opened for unity that comes from above to be replaced with diversity that comes from below. While there is tacit acknowledgement of prayer and worship the liturgy is turned into more of a self-congratulatory reflection of the individual and/or group and their show of faith rather than the reception of God's gifts and prayer to God.

In conclusion, the concept of "adiaphora" has reached its logical end. "Adiaphora" as a basis and rationale for changes in liturgical practice should be abandoned. It not only confuses but actually works against the whole essence and purpose of the Church at prayer. Whether intentional or not, "adiaphora" has exchanged the prayer of faith with the desires of men and created divisions that are not unrelated to failures of the reformation to appreciate what was lost of the catholic faith and practice as they looked ahead.

Whit Monday 12 May 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

. . . In very truth it is a marvellous thing that God rained manna on the fathers, and fed them with daily food from heaven; so that it is said, 'So man did eat angels' food.' But yet all those who ate that food died in the wilderness, but that food which you receive, that living Bread which came down from heaven, furnishes the substance of eternal life; and whosoever shall eat of this Bread shall never die, and it is the Body of Christ.

Now consider whether the bread of angels be more excellent of the Flesh of Christ, which is indeed the body of life. That manna came from heaven, this is above the heavens; that was of heaven, this is of the Lord of the heavens; that was liable to corruption, if kept a second day, this is far from all corruption, for whosoever shall taste it holily shall not be able to feel corruption. For them water flowed from the rock, for you Blood flowed from Christ; water satisfied them for a time, the Blood satiates you for eternity. The Jew drinks and thirsts again, you after drinking will be beyond the power of thirsting; that was in a shadow, this is in truth.

If that which you so wonder at is but shadow, how great must that be whose very shadow you wonder at. See now what happened in the case of the fathers was shadow: 'They drank,' it is said, 'of that Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were done in a figure concerning us.' 1 Corinthians 10:4 You recognize now which are the most excellent, for light is better than shadow, truth than a figure, the Body of its Giver than the manna from heaven.

. . . It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His body.

The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: 'This is My Body.' Matthew 26:26 Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It it true . . .

Wherefore, too, the Church, beholding so great grace, exhorts her sons and friends to come together to the sacraments . . .

- St. Ambrose, De mysteriis (excerpts from

Monday, May 19, 2008

Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

Excerpt from homily [St. John 3:1-15(16-17)]:

Nicodemus was a religious leader and teacher who sought to know more about Jesus and His teaching. Jesus, like Nicodemus, was considered a "Rabbi", or teacher, which meant that He taught the Hebrew Scriptures and explained the things of God. In addition to His teaching, Jesus was known for the miracles He did, which are called "signs" by the Evangelist John. Jesus teaches Nicodemus what it means to born of the Spirit so that Nicodemus might see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus is correct in saying that one cannot enter his mother's womb to be born again. But that is a birth of flesh. Jesus teaches that one must be born of the Spirit. He must be born "of water and the Spirit" to enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus does not understand and neither would we, if it was the case that we were not born of the Spirit. If Jesus told Nicodemus that babies were born from the mother's womb and Nicodemus would not believe Him then Nicodemus will certainly not believe that one must be born "of water and the Spirit" to enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus has to believe in Jesus before he can believe and understand His words but Nicodemus does not see Who Jesus is, thinking Him only to be a teacher. So Jesus says,

We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

To believe, Nicodemus needs to receive "our witness", that is the witness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The only One who can teach "heavenly things" is the Son of Man who has come down from heaven who will ascend into heaven and who is in heaven. Nicodemus needs to see that Jesus is the "Son of Man" before He can believe and "enter the kingdom of God." Since Nicodemus knows the things of Moses Jesus teaches him about Moses so that he may know the "Son of Man." Jesus tells Nicodemus, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

Benedicta sit sancta Trínitas, atque indivísa únitas.
Blessed be the Holy Trinity, and undivided Unity.

St. Dunstan of Canterbury

Dunstan (c. 909 - 19 May 988), of England was an abbot, bishop then Archbishop of Canterbury from 960-988. As abbot he began Benedictine monasticism at Glastonbury (Rule of St. Benedict). On his deathbed he is reported as saying, "He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: He hath given food to them that fear Him." Dunstan was canonized a saint and is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.

As a Lutheran I am not very familiar with his name and happened to come upon it only a few days ago as I was looking at a possible ancestry connection of one who was certified for travel via the Stepney Parish, Middlesex, London. This parish, more than a thousand years old, was eventually dedicated to St. Dunstan and All Saints. The ancestry question remains unresolved but what is certain in this search, unrelated to this day except for the parish dedication, is the year (1635) and the final destination (Plymouth, Massachusetts).

Monday, May 12, 2008

"has not resolved the problems . . . opened another wound"

In comments made public today, Pope Benedict speaks on the occasion of the anniversary of the legalization of abortion in Italy. Below are some excerpts from an article which is cited at the foot of the post:

“We cannot but recognize that, in practical terms, defending human life has become more difficult today, because a mentality has been created that progressively devalues human life and entrusts it to the judgment of individuals.”

The consequence of this thinking is a decrease in respect for the human person, “a value that lies at the foundation of any form of civil coexistence, over and above the faith a person may profess," the Pontiff said.

Contrary to the assertions of those who have promoted abortion, it “has not resolved the problems afflicting many women and no small number of families, but it has opened another wound in our societies."

"It is necessary to bear concrete witness to the fact that respect for life is the first form of justice that must be applied. For those who have the gift of faith this becomes an imperative that cannot be deferred. ... Only God is the Lord of life. Each human being is known, loved, wanted and guided by Him ... and each has his origins in God's creative plan."



Pentecost - Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308) Tempera on wood
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

Spiritus Dómini replévit orbem terrárum, et hoc quod continet ómnia sciéntiam habet vocis, Alleluia. (Introit for Dominica Pentecostes)

From Homily of 11 May:

". . . As baptized members of God's family we have no other thing to do than to hold on to and rejoice in the words of Jesus that He gives us for they bring us peace. They are words from the Father to us. He gives them to His Son who gives them to His Church. The Spirit teaches us through these words the things of God and in this teaching He reminds us of the words of the Lord. 'So when the Son Speaks, the Holy Spirit teaches.' (St. Augustine, ACCS IVb John 11-21, 151)

". . . We cannot believe in Jesus or come to Him. Still He calls us through the Gospel and brings us into His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Here we receive the forgiveness of our sins and life and salvation which Jesus gained for us and for all people through His suffering and death on the cross.

"'Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' When the Lord gives us His word, let it also be to us according to His word . . . Jesus loves the Father and goes to Him. He leads us to follow Him as He did the apostles, evangelists and martyrs before us. Those who love Jesus keep His word . . . Our peace does not come from this world. Our peace comes from the word of the Lord. He gives us His very Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins. In Him we have God Himself dwelling with us and the Holy Spirit teaching us those things that lead to everlasting life. Amen."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

celebration of festivals

Here is a quote from a Lutheran father on the celebration of festivals of Christ.


Thank you to the liturgical discussion lists for keeping us honest. Since we have transferred the celebration of Ascension to Sunday I forgot that today is the actual date of the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord. Blessed Ascension to all who will celebrate the Feast today!

Today is also the commemoration of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles. From the collect we read, ". . . Grant us perfectly to know Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the way, the truth, and the life, and steadfastly walk in the way that leads to eternal life . . ." (LSB)