Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Farewell, Salutation.

Of course, the Salutation of the Church's Divine Service is a high point of many stirringly enriching moments, pulsating and surging with meaning and ... dare I say it ... thrillingly tense drama, too (peruse the picture above; I'll explain below).  It's something grand, something which the riff-raff cacophony of the "praise-band" simply can't match.   The Salutation (which in this posting, is understood to include the laitical Response) shouldn't be treated lightly, or carelessly eliminated from the liturgical flow so as to de-emphasize the tender relationship existing between shepherd and flock.

According to the 1908 "An Explanation of the Common Service"[1; pages 30, 50, 66], the Salutation:

1.  is prayer invoking a Divine blessing, voiced sequentially between the pastor and his congregation, on behalf of the other.
2.  is a shared acknowledgement of God's serving and saving Presence, in the "now" setting of the Divine Service.
3.  was employed by the Medieval Church to "introduce every main part of the Service."  In other words, the Salutation for centuries has ordered the Divine Service, and usefully directs the attention to critical moments of intercession, blessing, grace, and joyful thanksgiving.

According to the Rev. Fr. Burnell Eckardt  [2; pp. 34-35], the Salutation:

1.  is an adaptation of the risen Christ's blessing of peace, lovingly addressed to His crest-fallen followers, cowering in their fearfully "secured" room; and faithfully messaged again by today's ordained ambassador of Christ.  Says Fr. Eckardt, the "pastor is repeating the pattern set by Christ Himself."
2.  is a preparatory maneuver for the heart's hearing of God's Word.  Fr. Eckardt has noted that in the ceremony of the Mass, "these are the first words (the pastor) speaks to the people as pastor."    This is because the Common Service's "Service of Preparation," which includes the General Confession, is in a liturgically technical sense not part of the Mass proper.
3. includes the laity's fervent prayer (i.e., "and with thy spirit") that the Holy Ghost will rest on the pastor, as a ritely and rightly-established bearer of the Spirit's own Holy Office.  This concrete Office entails solemn, serious and significant responsibility; and as Fr. Eckardt stresses in his book, it is a responsibility for which great divine "grace is required."  We add:  Those who think not, and prefer instead to entertain the poor laity with their clever jokes, or conduct sports-polls in the nave, should recall the toasted fate of the nonchalant duo Nadab and Abihu.  As St. Paul solemnly reminds the Corinthians and us, the very angels of God take interest in our chosen behavior, in the course of worshiping their Master.  One presumes they have long memories.

According to Professor Luther Reed [3; pages 262-263], the Salutation:

1.  is "a form of greeting" capturing the reality of the Hebrew expression Emmanuel ("God with us").  God is here, now, in the Mass.  Does your mind and body's behavior attend to and reflect this remarkable Truth?
2.  takes origin from several Old and New Testament pronouncements (e.g., Ruth 2:4;  Jdg 6:12; Lk 1;28; and, perhaps (sic), the Pauline benedictions (e.g., 2 Th 3:16; 2 Tm 4:22; etc.).
3.  has from the earliest times been constituted "as a significant responsive introduction to new and different parts of the Service."  In other words, the Salutation acts, then and NOW, as a marker of place, phase and progression in the course of God's Service to us.  It reminds us poor laymen:  "Watch!  Be alert!  Is your lamp of faith and wisdom filled, for what lies ahead?"
4.  is, in an extremely powerful sense, a holy and liturgical "endorsement" of the pastor to converse with God, and to indeed speak and act on behalf of the Almighty, to the benefit of the gathered believers.  It is a recollection of the congregational call, and the ecclesial ordination, of the presiding shepherd-servant.  Here, Prof. Reed quotes the French theologian Fernand Cabrol (1906) to splendid effect:  "The people answer 'And with thy spirit' as though commissioning him (the priest) to speak for all."

This ... this is powerful stuff.  The Salutation surely recalls the events occurring at the foot of Mt. Sinai, where at the rightfully quaking Israelites ... caught in the stupendous and over-powering presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy of their fathers ... pleaded with Moses the man, specifically and personally, to entreat the Tri-Personable Transcendent for them (Ex 20:18-21).  Yes, the Israelite Sinai of Law has now become the Lutheran Altar of Grace and Salvation.  Hallelujah!  But God Himself is no less Holy than when He chose to meet with Moses, millennia ago.  God does not change.  He still uses properly chosen and vested ambassadors of Christ.  Christ, the Incarnate LORD ... "like unto [Moses]," but immeasurably greater ... urges His sheep:  "Unto these My men, you shall hearken."   Pray for these My men, all ye saints.   Pray that the Spirit will descend on and enliven their spirits, so as to speak (and administer) the Truth which leads to salvation.  Pray, pray without ceasing.

And this we do, in the Salutation.

By the way, the beautiful distinction ... and responsibilities ... inherent in the orthodox Salutation is utterly lost with the Romish conciliar-inspired travesty of a Responsory i.e., "and also with you."  It's polite enough.  But a more complete leveling of shepherd and flock cannot be conceived by human gray matter, although experience teaches it's best not to under-estimate the fallen neuron's ability for conceiving additional mischief.   Through language and cognitive changes of our times, the Salutation has become less of a renewing, or recollection of Godly commissioning and ordination, than a time-consuming and potentially disposable exchange of pleasantries.  This is no small threat.   Be aware that doing the wave in the nave/"auditorium" is far more in tune with the prevailing religious sensitivities of America's true place of worship (the Super Bowl).  As evidence supporting the contentions here, consider this sorry circumstance existing among the "conservative" Lutherans.

In 1941's The Lutheran Hymnal, the Salutation occurs in three places within the "Order of the Holy Communion" (p. 15ff).  Firstly, at the Collect of the Day (an extraordinary encounter of God and all His people, where the pastor gathers the prayers of congregation, the entire orthodox Church, and indeed the orthodox Church of all time ... and  relates it to the theme of the liturgical week).  Secondly, at the Preface to the Eucharistic Mass, which precedes the pastor's handling and distributing the very Body and Blood of our Lord.  Lastly, its third occurrence  is found at near the post-Communion Benedicamus and Benediction, in which the human ambassador of Christ calls again on the Trinitarian God.  This, to entreat the LORD to lovingly and protectively send His people off to engage an oft-hostile world, in the abiding Presence and countenance of their Savior.  These are three liturgical encounters of great blessing, and great promise.  They truly merit the introductory convocation of hearts, embedded in the liturgy's Salutation.

Indeed, in some gatherings of the saints, like that routinely found at Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church (Detroit), the Ordo used allows for even more Salutations to be expressed, as occurs prior to the reading of the Scriptural Lessons of the day, and at the Post-Communion Collect.     

Inside the pages of the WELS' Christian Worship (1993), in contrast, its self-described "version" of the Common Service has stripped the Salutation from the closing Benediction.   Moreover, within the synod-endorsed alternative to its "Common Service" (viz., the "Service of Word and Sacrament," p. 26), the empowering Salutation has been stripped away from the Prayer of the Day (i.e., principle Collect),  and thence diverted to the commencing Service of Preparation, at the very start of things.  Here, the WELS' neighborly Greeting (sic) is exchanged between pastor and laity, coming at the expense of the august and abandoned Invocation of the TLH (and the ancient Western Rite, more generally, and even the WELS' idiosyncratic version of it, self-designated as "The Common Service").

Since the WELS is in the first stages of formulating a new hymnal for itself, there is no little cause for concern about a further vanishing of the Salutation, among a segment of the Lutheran community (with an established penchant for innovative red-lining of catechism, no less than  hymnal).

But it remains a mystery of group-psychology theorizing as to why the Salutation is treated in such loose fashion by Lutherans.  Maybe there is need, by a small minority, to be regarded as ever-trendy in the busy-busy world around.  Perhaps Dr. Adler was a right; there is a strong drive to flex a threatened self-identity's muscles, in order to seem assertive and to appear competent.  And yes, the WELS too often was type-cast in the role of little brother, for years, in that Synodical Conference which produced TLH.  Now on its own, it's rustling the head-feathers; or arching the back; or wielding the shovel and throwing the stuff found in the sandbox, among the other kids.   It's making a statement, an independent one, although the quality of the sandbox's material can at times raise the eyebrows and the nose.  

Or maybe ... given the high sacred meaning of the Salutation as perceived by Lutherans over one hundred years ago, and Eckhardt and Reed ...  a public exposure of the WELS' limited grasp and appreciation of the concrete Office of Holy Ministry and God's Service (Gottesdienst)  only becomes something inevitable and sorely evident, in its worship pages. "Lex oralis etc.." Verily, though, the endangered status of the Salutation in the Mass is NOT arising from synodical impatience with repetition or inefficiency.  After all, Christian Worship has chosen to introduce periodic refrains into the very midst of the Psalms it provides to be chanted.  Then again, with these intrusive "improvements" to God's Word, comes a simultaneous paring down of the absolute number of David's songs and too often of verse, found in the pews' same bound volumes.

So then, who can fathom these things?  Sometimes the blot of a Rorschach exercise remains only a blot.


[1]  F.E. Cooper et al. (1906) "An Exploration of the Common Service," United Lutheran Publications House, Philadelphia PA; Reprint: Emmauel Press (2006), Grand Rapids MI  www.emmanuelpress.us

[2]  B.F. Eckardt Jr. (text: 1998-2005) "Why? A Layman's Guide to the Liturgy," Repristination Press, Malone TX

[3]  L.D. Reed (1947)  "The Lutheran Liturgy," Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia PA    

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