Rubrics and Notes for Celebrating Lent and Holy Week in the Lutheran Congregation


valasquez_christ-on-the-cross

The more general liturgical practices of Lent and Holy Week are assumed and taken into account, but they are not necessarily specified in connection with each of the particular services of this Lenten series. For the sake of clarity, some of these traditional practices are as follows:

  • The Gloria in Excelsis is omitted from the Divine Service, even on the Sundays in Lent (though these Sundays are festivals in their own right and are not counted in the forty days of Lent). Exceptions to this omission of the Gloria in Excelsis are the festivals of St. Joseph, the Guardian of Jesus (March 19), and the Annunciation of Our Lord (March 25), as well as Holy (Maundy) Thursday.
  • Traditionally the “Alleluia” is not sung from Ash Wednesday until the Easter Vigil. It is also not then proper to display paraments or banners with the word “Alleluia.”
  • The Gloria Patri (the lesser Gloria) is not used during Holy Week, including the daytime services of Holy Thursday.
  • Depending on local custom, the organ is not played during Lent except to accompany the singing of the congregation. Likewise, other instruments are silenced, including the ringing of bells in the service.
  • Crosses throughout the church may be veiled with unbleached linen or violet cloth throughout Lent, though there are differences of opinion as to the significance of this practice and how (or if) it ought to be done. Where crosses are veiled, it is done with penitential reverence and humility, not for the sake of hiding or forgetting the cross. The intent of veiling the cross is to increase the longing of the faithful for the cross. Local circumstance and pastoral discernment will determine how best to handle such a practice. For example, the processional cross may be unveiled for the services of Holy Week, beginning with the procession of palms on Passion Sunday. The veil of the altar cross may be changed to white for the Holy Thursday Divine Service, and then the cross may be removed altogether at the stripping of the altar.
  • Another local custom is the choice not to place flowers on the altar (or anywhere in the church) from Ash Wednesday until the Easter Vigil.
  • In brief, there is comprehensive restraint of celebration while waiting and hungering for the Paschal Feast.
  • In those congregations that use the Paschal candle, the candle remains in its place at the baptismal font and is used at Baptisms and funerals during Lent and Holy Week.

Accompanying the restraint of celebration, and serving the catechetical purpose of the Lenten season, it is well to emphasize, teach, and encourage the practice of individual confession and absolution during Lent.

It is recommended that during Lent the so-called “declaration of grace” (the right-hand column in the settings of the Divine Service, as for example on p. 167 of Lutheran Service Book) be used in the rite of preparation instead of the indicative-active “I forgive you.” Historically, the “declaration of grace” was by far the more common practice in this context among Lutherans and is less easily confused with the absolution of individual confession (from which the indicative-active form derives).

The Annunciation of Our Lord (March 25) will occasionally fall on a Sunday in Lent. While normally a feast day of Christ (sometimes called a ‘first-rank’ festival) would displace the ‘ordinary’ Sunday celebration, the traditional rule is that no feast may displace a Sunday in Lent. Should March 25 fall on a Sunday in Lent, the Annunciation is not omitted, but transferred to the next available day. The reason the Annunciation does not take precedence in this case is that the Sundays in Lent are also feast days of the first rank. In addition, if the Annunciation falls at any time during Holy Week, it is transferred to the first available day after the Easter Octave.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and sets the tone of the season. It is a pointed call to repentance, which is to say that it is a return to the death and resurrection of Holy Baptism by way of confession and faith in the forgiveness of sins. Thus the imposition of ashes, from which the day receives its name, recalls both the mortality of sinful man and the redemption of Christ into which His followers have been baptized. This context of contrition and repentance, fully and firmly centered in the cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus, is the framework within which the Lenten fast is undertaken. A focus on Christ’s Passion will not be chiefly an emotional or intellectual exercise, though the Word and Spirit of God engage both the intellect and the emotions. Rather, in faith the Passion is approached as the very heart of the Gospel, which the Lord our Savior has accomplished for us and now bestows on us with His Means of Grace.

There is a liturgical connection between Ash Wednesday and Holy (Maundy) Thursday. The penitential discipline begun on this day is resolved in the Lord’s cleansing of His disciples, and the fasting of repentance is ended with the Lord’s feeding of His disciples in Holy Communion. Of course, this cleansing and feeding occur also on Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, but they come into special focus on Holy Thursday at the beginning of the Paschal Triduum. On a seasonal level, one may think of the relationship between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday as following the rhythmic pattern of each Divine Service: a liturgical progression from contrition and confession, through the catechesis of the Word, to the feasting of the Lord’s Supper.

Ideally, the imposition of ashes may be done in the morning of Ash Wednesday, so that the entire day is spent in penitential contemplation of our sin and mortality in view of God’s grace and forgiveness. The rite is best administered in connection with confession and absolution, lest the penitent simply be turned upon himself. If it is unreasonable to suppose that many members of the congregation will be able to avail themselves of such an opportunity in the morning, the imposition of ashes and corporate confession may be repeated in the late afternoon or early evening, prior to the Divine Service allowing for a period of reflection and confession between the two ceremonies.

The color of the day is violet (or black). The pastor(s) may prefer to wear cassock and surplice for the imposition of ashes and the Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution, but alb (and chasuble) is appropriate for the Divine Service.

  • Due to the solemn character of the day, pre-service music and a hymn of invocation are omitted.
  • If the imposition of ashes and the Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution take place in the morning or at a time significantly prior to the Divine Service, the pastor(s) and congregation leave in silence. If the Divine Service follows these two orders within a short period of time or immediately, a period of silence should be allowed before proceeding with the Entrance Hymn. The pastor(s) may use this time to change from cassock and surplice to alb. The celebrant of the Divine Service may also be vested in a chasuble at this point.
  • The Gloria in Excelsis is omitted from the Divine Service.
  • Depending on local custom and circumstances, the closing hymn may be omitted.

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday marks a transition within Holy Week from Lent to the Holy Triduum. In this it serves as something of a bookend to Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent. The historic Gospel for this day (John 13) recounts the washing of the disciples’ feet by our Lord. Although this is an example of Christian love for the neighbor, the foot washing is first and foremost a demonstration of the Lord’s enduring love for His own and a depiction of our return to the significance of Holy Baptism through contrition and repentance, confession and faith in the forgiveness of sins. The penitential discipline of Lent has brought us to this point, and Christ Jesus, our Savior, loves us to the end. The dust and ashes of sin and death are washed away by Jesus’ word of Holy Absolution, and the One who humbles Himself, even to death, in order to serve us in love with His own holy body and precious blood, exalts those who have been humbled by the Law.

Although Holy Thursday is a culmination and completion of Lent, it is also the beginning of the Paschal Feast, which remembers with thanksgiving the sacrificial death and great salvation of the Lamb of God. Holy Thursday is the first of three sacred days that together constitute the Church’s celebration of both the cross and the resurrection of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the true Passover Lamb, who is sacrificed for us, whose blood covers us from death, whose body feeds us for life and salvation in the freedom of the Gospel; yet He is the same Lord God who by His mighty, outstretched arms brings us out of slavery, through the water and the wilderness, into the promised land, and He feeds us on the way.

One note on the title for the day. Lutheran Service Book calls the day Holy Thursday, and this is the common name for the day in most of world Christendom. It has, however, been called Maundy Thursday for many years in various Lutheran churches. There is no clear history behind the word, though it is most likely from the words of our Lord, “A new commandment (mandate) I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Less likely is from the words of our Lord at the Last Supper, “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24).

With its rich and varied emphases, there are different ways and means of observing Holy Thursday. It may be best to consider the day incrementally. Thus the congregation may gather in the morning for The Litany and for Corporate Confession and Absolution, both in culmination of the Lenten fast and in expectation of the evening Feast.

If it is unlikely that many members of the congregation will be able to participate in such a morning service, the same opportunity may be provided in the late afternoon or early evening, but still prior to and distinct from the Divine Service. If this option were used, the evening Divine Service would begin with the Introit.

Prior to sundown, the color of Holy Thursday is appropriately the scarlet of Passion Sunday (or the violet of Lent). This fits the penitential character of The Litany and of corporate confession.

After sundown, the color of the day at an evening Divine Service is preferably white. For this reason, also, there should be a clear separation of the penitential rites and services from the evening feast. Although Holy Thursday may be observed with a more penitential emphasis, it rightly bears a festive mood. Although the Alleluia continues to be omitted and now during Holy Week the Gloria Patri is omitted, traditionally the Gloria in Excelsis is sung on this occasion. Typically, the Holy Thursday service is marked by restrained exuberance throughout the Divine Service, until the stripping of the altar concludes this portion of the Triduum with a distinct turning toward the solemn depths of Good Friday. Holy Thursday looks ahead to both the Passion and the resurrection, and so looks to the Lord’s cross as the very tree of life from which our Savior feeds us.

  • The suggested Rite of Preparation may be observed in the morning or late afternoon.
  • The Litany in the Rite of Preparation is from Lutheran Service Book.
  • The collect in the Rite of Preparation is the Collect of the Day for Ash Wednesday.
  • If the optional Rite of Preparation is observed separately from the Divine Service, the pastor(s) and congregation leave in silence.
  • If a Service of Confession and Absolution or the optional Rite of Preparation is followed immediately by the Divine Service, a pause is appropriate, and the color of the day should be changed to white before the Divine Service begins.
  • During the stripping of the altar, Psalm 22 is chanted or spoken. For further details on the stripping of the altar, see pages 506–7 of Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book.
  • The Benediction is not given until the conclusion of the Triduum at the Easter Vigil.

 

Good Friday

Good Friday stands at the heart and center of the Triduum even as Christ’s death on the cross, which it commemorates and celebrates, stands at the heart and center of the Christian faith and life. The service of this day is marked by the Church’s deepest humility and most solemn reverence, for she gives her attention to the cross and Passion of her dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her sorrow and contrition do not give way to despair, however; nor does she mourn the death of Christ. Rather, in repentant faith the Church gives thanks for Christ’s atoning sacrifice and lays hold of His redemption in the hearing of His Gospel (and in the eating and drinking of His body and blood).

Although the Chief Service of Good Friday is appropriately held between the hours of noon and 3 p.m., nevertheless it may be held whenever the majority of the congregation will be able to attend.

The rites and ceremonies of the Good Friday service are profound and powerful and invite deliberate care, calm, and an unhurried approach that allows for a quietly eloquent proclamation of the Passion of the Christ. It is easy to overdo the drama of the day and of the service with theatrical effort, but careful study of the notes and rubrics of the service will help to maintain the appropriate focus.

The color of the day is black, though the altar remains bare (other than for the vessels of the Lord’s Supper, at that point in the service when the Sacrament of the Altar may be celebrated). For the bulk of the service, the pastor(s) may be vested in cassock and surplice; the preacher may wear a stole (preferably black) for the sermon.

  • The congregation stands for the concluding portions of the Reading of the Passion, beginning with John 19:16b–24 (Jesus’ crucifixion), and continues to stand through the final stanza of the hymn.
  • As the Church remembers with thanksgiving the suffering and death of her Lord and Savior for the redemption and reconciliation of the world, it is particularly fitting that she should pray and intercede for the entire world in His name. The Bidding Prayer does this most beautifully and profoundly, identifying all sorts of particular conditions and needs. Such prayer is not historically unique to Good Friday, but was typical of the Church’s prayer from its earliest days. Because the most solemn occasions also tend to be the most conservative in form and practice, the Bidding Prayer has been retained as part of the venerable character of Good Friday.
  • If possible, the congregation may kneel for the Bidding Prayer, and the presiding pastor may kneel before the altar (at or near a rough-hewn cross, if this is part of local custom and practice).
  • The rite associated with the adoration of the cross can be found on page 517 of Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book. There are two options associated with this rite. If the rough-hewn cross is carried in procession and placed in the chancel at this point in the service, the sentence “Behold, the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the world” and its response are sung or spoken at three points in the procession. If the cross is already in position at or near the altar, the sentence and response are sung three times, pausing after each for adoration of the cross. The cross is not adored as though it were a relic or a magic talisman, but as a sacred sign of the Lord’s redemption (similar to standing for the Holy Gospel).
  • There are differences of opinion as to whether the Sacrament of the Altar should be celebrated on Good Friday, and no definitive answer may be dictated. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths distribute Holy Communion on this day from elements consecrated on Holy Thursday and reserved intentionally for this purpose. Lutherans should be reluctant to follow such a practice, yet they do also recognize the appropriateness and benefits of receiving the body and blood of Christ on this day as the very fruits of His holy cross.
  • A satisfying and salutary way of celebrating the Sacrament of the Altar on Good Friday is suggested on pages 512, 522–24 of Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book. The Communion linens, vessels, and elements are brought to the altar and the celebrant is vested in alb (and chasuble) during the hymn “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle.” The Service of the Sacrament is marked by a reverent simplicity, spoken rather than sung. The Sanctus and the Agnus Dei are not sung; however, hymns of the Passion may be sung during the distribution. The Communion vessels and linens are removed from the altar during the singing of the service’s concluding hymn.
  • The Benediction is not given until the conclusion of the Triduum at the Easter Vigil.


Easter Vigil

The Great Vigil of Easter, kept on the Eve of the Resurrection of Our Lord, is the culmination of the Holy Triduum. It brings to a festive completion the three-day service that began on Holy Thursday and continued on Good Friday. In itself, the Easter Vigil is a transitional service. In much the same way that Holy Thursday was both the conclusion of Lent and the beginning of the Triduum, so the Easter Vigil both completes the Triduum and ushers in the Fifty Days of Eastertide. This transition is poignantly manifested in the course of the vigil, which progresses purposefully from darkness to light. It celebrates specifically the passage of Christ from death into life, and the Church’s passage through death into life with Him through Holy Baptism. The night begins with hushed anticipation, proceeds with eager expectation, and finally climaxes in the exuberant celebration of the Paschal Feast.

The Easter Vigil is very much a Christian “Passover,” that is, a celebration of the great exodus that Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, accomplished by His sacrificial death and brought to light in His resurrection from the dead. All that the Lord God did for Israel in bringing His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land He has perfectly fulfilled for all the baptized, who are the new Israel, in His cross and resurrection. In Holy Baptism we have come out of Egypt and have crossed the Red Sea with Him, and have entered with Him into Canaan through the Jordan. In the Paschal Feast of Holy Communion, we eat and drink the true Passover Lamb. His blood covers us and protects us from sin, death, and hell; His body feeds and sustains us on our way. (Pless)

In particular, the Easter Vigil proclaims and confesses that as we have died with Christ by our Baptism into His death, so do we also rise with Him and live with Him in newness of life. It is for us that He died and rose from the dead. The Vigil lays hold of that sure and certain hope in the Gospel, or, better, the Vigil lays hold of us and brings us with Christ out of death into His life. It does so not by any sort of magic, but by the Word and Spirit of God.

With its rites, ceremonies, and propers, the vigil itself catechizes pastors and their congregations in the paschal mystery celebrated on this night. The most important preparation, therefore, is for service participants to study carefully and rehearse the notes and rubrics of the Easter Vigil. When all is well prepared and the service can proceed according to its proper rhythm, the Word of God in the readings and prayers of the Easter Vigil will do its own work among the people of God.

The Easter Vigil is presented in six parts: the Service of Light, the Service of Readings, the Service of Holy Baptism, the Service of Prayer, the Service of the Word, and the Service of the Sacrament. Each part has its own integrity and contributes to the progression of the whole. The Service of Light, in which the paschal candle is consecrated for use and lighted as a sign of the Lord’s resurrection, may take place at a bonfire outside the church building. To accentuate the continuity of this night with the Passion of our Lord, the gathering may occur where the congregation assembled for the procession with palms on Passion Sunday. After the consecration of the paschal candle, the people follow it into the church, as Israel followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night in the exodus from Egypt. During this procession, “The Light of Christ” (“Thanks be to God”) is chanted at three points, which may replicate the points at which the sentence “Behold, the life-giving cross” was stated during the adoration of the cross in the Good Friday service. These ceremonial associations contribute to the way in which the Easter Vigil holds together the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the New Testament Passover.

The Service of Light crescendos in the chanting of the Exsultet (which ideally is sung rather than spoken). This beautiful proclamation of the paschal mystery sets the tone of the entire Easter Vigil, celebrating the fulfillment of the Old Testament exodus in the resurrection of the Christ. It rings out in the night, in much the same way that the candles break into the darkness with their shimmering light. There is the tension of waiting, a pregnant expectation of that which has already been accomplished but has yet to be openly announced. It is no secret that Christ has risen from the dead—no more so now than on Ash Wednesday or at any other time throughout Lent. Yet the Church on earth lives in, with, and under the cross of Christ; thus she experiences the now-and-not-yet of the resurrection in the Word of the Lord.

Although the handheld candles of the congregation should be carefully extinguished at the end of the Exsultet, the Service of Readings should proceed in semidarkness, with only as much light as necessary for the reading of the Holy Scriptures and for the prayers and canticles of the people. The Readings are the distinctive and definitive heart of the Easter Vigil. They set forth a series of Old Testament prophecies and types of the Christ, of His cross and resurrection, and of the Church’s participation in His dying and rising again. It is not expected that congregations will employ all twelve Readings, but as many of these as possible should be used. At least the first three Readings should always be used (the creation, the flood, and the exodus), and preferably the twelfth Reading (the three men in the fiery furnace). A selection of four Readings is given here, along with congregational responses in the form of two psalms and two canticles. The congregation should sit for the Readings, kneel for the collects that follow each Reading, and stand for the psalms or canticles that are interspersed with the Readings. Because the Church waits on the Lord in steadfast faith and hope by giving attention to His Word, there is no need to hurry through the Readings. Congregations comprised largely of younger members may arrange to observe the Easter Vigil through the hours of the night, culminating in the early dawn of Easter Sunday. In such a case (presumably rare), all of the Readings would be used; each followed by its collect, the appropriate psalm or canticle, and separated with periods of silence. The Readings do not require commentary because within the context of the entire week, the collects, psalms, and canticles provide appropriate and sufficient reflection of the Word by which the Lord catechizes His people and accomplishes His purposes among them.

Whether or not there are catechumens to be baptized at the Easter Vigil, the Service of Baptism follows the Readings as a return to the death and resurrection of repentance and faith that all the baptized share with Christ by the washing of water with His Word and Spirit. Here is the crossing of the Red Sea with the One who is greater than Moses, which already anticipates the crossing of the Jordan with the New Testament Joshua (Jesus, the Christ). This returning to the significance of Holy Baptism through contrition, repentance, and faith in the forgiveness of sins is to be the daily and lifelong discipline of every Christian. It is here embraced at the very heart of the Easter Vigil, in remembrance and celebration of the cross and resurrection of Christ. It is not meant to replace the daily taking up of the cross to follow Jesus as His disciples, but it is observed in service and support of that Christian faith and life. This is the fulfillment of Lent and the rebirth of an Easter life.

The Divine Service of the Easter Vigil is somewhat simpler than the usual Sunday observance, yet it is not as full and festive as the chief Divine Service on Easter Sunday will be. The same basic movement takes place: from the Word of the Gospel to the Word made flesh in Holy Communion, received in faith and with thanksgiving. In this case, the Prayer of the Church (in the Litany of the Resurrection) precedes the basic pattern of the Word preached and the Sacrament administered, which serves to further heighten the unity of the Holy Gospel and Holy Communion.

The Service of the Word at the Easter Vigil is really as much or more a part of the entire Eucharistic rite rather than a separate component. In contrast to the deliberate and steady pacing of the Readings, the Service of the Word proceeds forward swiftly. Ideally, this would occur after night fall as there is now a striking transition from darkness to light, from the sobriety of Holy Week to the sights and sounds and celebration of the Easter feast. That is signaled by the Easter acclamation: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” The altar candles are now lighted from the paschal candle, the lights in the church are turned on, bells are rung, the organ opens up in jubilation, the Gloria in Excelsis is sung, and the Lord’s altar is prepared for the Sacrament (there is no offering or offertory in the usual manner).

The proclamation of the Easter Gospel (John 20:1–18) testifies that the Jesus who died and was buried is not only no longer in the tomb, but has been raised bodily from the dead. The preaching of this Gospel should be straightforward and direct, brief and to the point. All of Holy Week and the entire Easter Vigil have been an extended proclamation and catechesis of the Word, the Law and the Gospel, to repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore it is neither necessary nor desirable to have a lengthy sermon at this point.

The Service of the Sacrament will follow according to one of the usual settings of the Divine Service, beginning with the Preface. Here it is suggested that Setting Four continued to be used as it has throughout this Lenten series. While other settings may surely be preferred in some congregations, Setting Five should not be chosen for use at the Easter Vigil. Note the special Post-Communion Collect appointed for the Easter Vigil.

The color of the day at the Easter Vigil is white and/or gold. However, the church should be kept in semidarkness until the Service of the Word, at which point there is a transition to all the trappings of Easter, as previously indicated. Depending on the circumstances, the altar may be dressed and adorned with the appropriate paraments, Easter flowers, and other accoutrements at this point in the service. The logistics for such a transition require planning and rehearsal to avoid awkwardness or uncertainty. Similarly, the celebrant and his assistant(s) may prefer to be vested in cassock and surplice, but at this point they would vest in alb (and chasuble for the celebrant) for the Service of the Word and Sacrament.

How Lutherans Worship -13: The Hymns & The Sermon


Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Hymns and The Hymn of the Day

God’s people have been encouraged to sing their prayers, praise, and thanksgiving to God. Why do we sing? Psalm 98 gives us the reason.

Psalm 98:1
Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.

The Word of God not only creates faith but teaches us, His children, His gracious will toward us. God has freely given us His own righteousness. In our hymns we respond to this Good News with singing, reciting back to Him the great acts of our salvation in thanksgiving and praise.

University Lutheran Chapel, University of Minnesota

Taking cues from Scripture’s own songbook, the Psalms, the Church’s hymns give us a variety of ways to thank, praise, and proclaim the God who has done all good things for us. In the Divine Service, our singing is related to the readings from Scripture. Hymns enable everyone to join together in proclaiming the scriptural truths read at the lecturn, preached from the pulpit, and spoken before the altar.

Within the Divine Service, congregational hymnody relates to the Scripture appointed for each Sunday. The Hymn of the Day is the principle hymn of the Divine Sercice and relates to, and reflects on the theme of the day, most often set by the Holy Gospel.

The Sermon

Our Lord sent His apostles into the world to preach that forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are found through Him. In the preaching of the Sermon, that apostolic Word is proclaimed among us today.

sermon: The pastor’s proclamation, usually based on the Scripture readings for the day.

Scriptural and Christ-centered

The Sermon is dependent on all that has gone before it in the Divine Service—the liturgy, the hymns, and the readings. Therefore the message of the Sermon is the fullest expression of the theme of the day. The Sermon is the pinnacle of the Service of the Word. It is the Word studied, explained, and expounded through the pastor, the one called by the congregation to preach.

In the Sermon the pastor speaks God’s words of judgment and grace to the current situation. In this way, the Sermon also prepares the hearer for the celebration of the Service of the Sacrament. Like the Absolution, the Sermon delivers the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ on the cross. The Divine Service, then, becomes for us grace upon grace (John 1:16).

1 Corinthians 1:18
For the word of the cross is . . . the power of God.

Lutherans believe and confess that preaching from the Word of God is a means of grace. That is, that the power of God to forgive sins is available and received through the Word of God proclaimed by the preacher. The sermon is placed in the service of the cross, and as in the Absolution and the Sacraments, the hearer is engaged in a person encounter with the living God who is strong to save.

means of grace: The means by which God gives us the forgiveness life, and salvation won by the death and resurrection of Christ: God’s Word, Absolution, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

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How Lutherans Worship -12: Hearing God’s Word


The Service of the Word makes a transition from prayer and praise to the hearing of God’s Word. The bestowal of God’s grace, which was announced in the Introit and prayed for in the Collect, will now take place in the reading and preaching of God’s Word. The reading of Scripture in the Divine Service is testimony of our high view of the Bible’s inspiration and authority. God’s Word shapes, forms, and norms what we say and do. Reading God’s Word, and the preaching that is governed by these Scriptures, is the high point for the Service of the Word.

Romans 10:17
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Wherever God’s Word is, there our Lord has promised to be (Matthew 18:20).

Our service follows a simple pattern for the hearing of God’s Word then responding with thanksgiving and praise. Typically the readings for the Divine Service are one from the Old Testament, one from an apostolic letter (Epistle), and one from a Gospel. In a real sense, the readings from the Old Testament and an Epistle lead to and find their fulfillment in the Gospel. In this way, the first two readings function like John the Baptist preparing us to hear in repentance and faith the gracious voice of Christ. Origen, an early Christian, called the Holy Gospel the “crown of all Holy Scripture.”

The Word of God comes to us through His Scriptures with power to deliver what He promises. They do this by not only telling us about Jesus but also by giving us Jesus, who was crucified for our sins and raised to life for our justification. Through the reading and the preaching of His Scripture, God is at work creating faith, bestowing His peace in the forgiveness of sins, strengthening His people in their struggle against sin, and nurturing the hope of everlasting life.

As Jesus came to us in the lowliness of our flesh in His incarnation, so now He comes to us in human words. Through these words, God himself is at work to “make [us] wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). The Word of God is the Word of life.

Old Testament Reading and Epistle

Luke 24:27
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

The first reading is typically from the Old Testament. Through the recorded history of Israel and the words of the prophets, we are taught God’s work of salvation in the Old Testament. There we hear the prophecies of the Messiah who would come to men that all people might once again be brought back to God. The Old Testament Reading prepares us to hear the Holy Gospel, which is the fulfillment of the prophecies and promises made in the Old Testament.

This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Hearing the Word of God, the people respond with words of praise. The Gradual is a portion of a psalm or other Scripture passage that provides a response after the Old Testament Reading. It is a proper selected to help the hearer reflect on the reading in context with the theme of the day or the season of the Church Year. It also serves as a bridge between the first reading and the Epistle that follows.

2 Timothy 3:16–17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

The Epistle,  a reading from a New Testament letter, gives us God’s counsel on how His gracious Word is applied to the hearer and the Church. Often in this reading we hear how God’s Word accomplishes what it says—creating faith, bestowing forgiveness, strengthening God’s people in their struggles against sin, and enlivening in them the hope of eternal life.

This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Holy Gospel

The Holy Evangelists

Like the Gradual, the Alleluia and Verseprovide a transition between the readings. The word alleluia is Hebrew for “praise the Lord.” The Verse prepares us to meet the Christ of God in His Word, hearing of His life, ministry, death, and resurrection for the salvation of all.

Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Alleluia, alleluia.

John 6:68
Simon Peter answered [Jesus], “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” 

The Holy Gospel according to St. ___________, the ________chapter.

Glory to You, O Lord.

The Holy Gospel always contains the very words or deeds of Jesus. This makes the reading of the Holy Gospel the summit of the Service of the Word, and we recognize this by surrounding our Savior’s words with songs of glory and praise and by standing to receive His gracious words.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to You, O Christ.

The Holy Gospel is seen as the summit of the Service of the Word, and that fact is acknowledged with the acclamation of glory and praise. Often, the congregation will stand during the reading of the Gospel in honor of the gracious Word of Christ that is being proclaimed before it. In His speaking in and through the Scripture, God is serving His people. From His words we receive life and we receive salvation.

John 20:30-31
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

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How Lutherans Worship – 11: Prayer and the Collect of the Day


Salutation

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

The Salutation is a special greeting between the congregation and its pastor. Originally the pastor would have spoken “Peace be with you,” purposefully repeating our Lord’s post-resurrection greeting to His fearful disciples gathered together in the upper room on that first Easter evening. The present wording of the Salutation is inexorably tied to His incarnation (Luke 1:28) and with His promise to be with His church (Matthew 28:20). In the Divine Service the announcement of the Lord’s peace heralds His coming to us in the readings that follow and makes us aware that important things are about to happen.

Salutation. Special greeting between pastor and people: “The Lord be with you,” followed by the response “And also with you” or “And with your spirit.”

Prayer and The Collect of the Day

Prayer is how the Christian acknowledges the gifts of the Gospel. “Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise (Lutheran Worship, pg. 6). In the Scriptures God speaks to human beings, but in prayer, human beings speak to God. Prayer is the life of faith in active communion or conversation with object of our faith–God. Prayer is the evidence of the relationship we have with the Father because of the redemption won for us by the Son. It shows our childlike trust and confidence in the One who does for us all that we need and more.

Let us pray.

The Collect of the Day “collects” in a concise and beautiful manner the Gospel message for the day to implore God, by His grace and through His mercy, to manifest His love in and through our thoughts, words, and deeds. We pray these things to remember Him who always provides for us, and to receive these gifts with godly thanksgiving. Most of these prayers have been in continuous use in the Church for more than 1,500 years. In praying the Collect, we join with the great body of believers, the communion of saints, and with the generations yet to come.

 Amen. Declaration that what has been said is true and affirming its trust in the Lord’s Gospel promise; “yes, yes, this is most certainly true.”

A special advantage of using the collects, both ancient and modern, is that they keep the fundamental needs of salvation and the great objective facts of divine grace in clear focus, and they align us with the revealed will of God which will soon be proclaimed in the reading of Scripture. The congregation makes the Collect its own with its “amen,”

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A Prayer for the Resurrection of Our Lord—Easter 2011


The Morning of the Resurrection, 1882, Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

(from the Easter sermon of John Chrysostom,
pastor of Constntinople ca. AD 400)

O almighty and eternal God through the death of Your Son You have destroyed death, and by His rising to life again you have restored innocence and everlasting life. Being delivered from the power of the devil, grant that I might live under You in Your kingdom and that I may be forever comforted by true faith in the resurrection of Your dear Son. Do not let the thought of death fill my heart with terror, but give me the blessed assurance that, just as You have with Christ, I will not remain in the grave but will rise again at the End of Days. And when, by Your grace I have finished my course let Your resurrection be for me a sure pledge that an inheritance that does not fade is reserved for me in heaven. While I live, guide me with Your holy counsel; and when I die give me the crown of life, that with all the holy angels and the elect I may praise and glorify You, world without end. Amen.

Eternal is the gift He brings,
Therefore our heart with rapture sings:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Now still He comes to give us life
And by His presence stills all strife.
Christ has triumphed! He is living!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

-Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds, stz. 2, Paul Z. Strodach

Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday?


As the Senior Editor working with church resources at Concordia Publishing House, I have decisions to make about what appears in those resources. I am used to explaining the reasons for those decision. Sometimes I’m asked to explain things that appear in CPH products but are actually determined by our use of the Church Year, or the lectionary, or the liturgy. Since I love digging into and understanding more about the Church Year, the lectionary, and the liturgy, and write often here about them, I thought I would share this afternoon’s endeavor with those of you who still might look in on this poor oft-neglected blog.

Each year we purchase CPH’s downloadable Church calendar resource (i.e. 2010-2011 Church Year Calendar-Series A”). Our altar guild uses this for the colors of the altar paraments. Holy Thursday is listed for the color White. The CPH book “Lutheran Worship History And Practice” lists scarlet or purple. I know that LSB also has white as an option but shouldn’t the color default to purple on the calendar?
thanks.

The Last Supper

When we set the calendars in our various resources I was in contact with the Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and worked closely with them. As that commission no longer exists. I can certainly tell you why we have made the choices we have at CPH, but as for the intricacies of rationale behind what appears in the Church Year calendar of Lutheran Service Book, I could only suggest that you may want to make contact with the former members of the Lectionary Committee, Lutheran Service Book Project. They are: James Brauer, Arthur Just (chairman), Daniel Reuning, D. Richard Stuckwisch, and Gregory Wismar.

When working with the Church Year and the LSB lectionary there are often options offered. When bringing these options into CPH products, it often means that I, as the editor, have choices to make. After some trial and error, and extended discussions with Commission directors and members, it has been agreed that when an option is presented, CPH will consistently offer the first option. The Commission’s point of view was that the first option offered was the majority or preferred text or practice. So for Holy Week, starting with the LSB calendar in 2006, the options are S/V, scarlet/violet. Scarlet being stated first shows the Commission’s decision that it is the preferred color for observations during that week, with violet the alternate option. It should be noted that in LSB for the first time I am aware of, the Thursday in Holy Week is differentiated between Holy Thursday and  Maundy Thursday in an LCMS calendar. During the day of Thursday in Holy Week the preferred color is scarlet. All prayer offices and worship services held during the day would be observed using scarlet paraments.

Now, Pastor, some of what follows is from my own understanding and study, so should not be totally attributed to the Commission; where I err or am unclear, the fault is mine. There has been, since at least the ’90s, a increased interest in, and practice of, the ancient Triduum among Missouri Synod Lutherans. The three services of the Triduum—Divine Service on Holy Thursday, the chief service on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil—comprise a single unit. The Thursday in Holy Week becomes a day of transition, with the Triduum observed, there is a ‘break’ that happens at sunset between Lent preparation and commemorating Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. Sunset (the traditional—liturgical—beginning of the new day) on Holy Thursday, is the vigil for Good Friday and begins the Triduum (cf. the General Notes on page 506 of the LSB Altar Book).

When the Divine Service is celebrated on the Thursday in Holy Week (technically, when it is celebrated in the evening as the vigil of Good Friday), it is observed as a feast of Christ. I suspect this came about when the ILCW introduced the three-year lectionary and the traditional John 13 Gospel (TLH and the common lectionary) was replaced by the institution narratives in the respective A, B, and C Gospels. As a feast of Christ , it is consistent to use white paraments. With the LW calendar, white was the optional color to violet. Because the Triduum has been raised as the preferred practice in LSB lectionary and resources, our CPH resources designate white as the color for the day because for most congregations, the Divine Service of the Thursday in Holy Week is the chief service of the day.

Incidentally, you may have also picked up in this response why the lectionary committee  moved from designating the Thursday in Holy Week as Maundy Thursday to Holy Thursday; for with the shift from John 13 to the institutional narratives as the appointed Gospel, the mandatum of Maundy Thursday is without context.

Well, as you rush off to celebrate your Holy (Maundy) Thursday, what are your thoughts and insights? Maybe there is a Commission member or former director lurking about that can authenticate or correct what I have offered. I’m all ears. Like you, I love this stuff.