(by Pastor Rossow) This series of posts is intended to do two things: 1) be instructive on how to do the liturgy and 2) demonstrate that the traditional liturgy is rich, varied, fresh, vibrant and creative. When done well, the traditional liturgy can satisfy many of the illicit cravings for so called “contemporary worship.” As an example of the creative and fresh side of the traditional liturgy we offer this final Advent video of a meaningful baptismal ritual and a midweek Advent service built around Taizé music. The service included hymnody and psalmody in this style, which we will include in future udpates.
We will be offering a greater variety of parishes in this series in weeks to come and we hope you will be a part of it. Just have someone take out their smart-phone video camera and capture a part of your parish at worship. It can be creative like the things we have shown so far but we are also looking for the “ordinaries” and the routine. If you have a video to share send it to me at rossow.tim”at”gmail.com and we will give it consideration.
The baptismal remembrance rite (ending during the first half of the video) takes place about a third into the service. (Click here for the service folder.) People are simply invited to come forward as they see fit to dip their fingers in the water of our ever-flowing font and make the sign of the cross. It has turned out to be a great way to introduce more people to the benefit of making the sign of the cross. We have about forty percent of our congregation making the sign of the cross during the liturgy. Each year we see some people who don’t regularly do so come up for this ritual and then start making the sign of the cross routinely. Lutherans like coming up front en masse (ashes, pledge cards, etc.). This was our fourth Advent midweek service and it was lightly attended but it was still a good crowd. About 90% of the people came up to the font.
Taizé music is from the Taizé Community in France. There are several examples in the Lutheran Service Book: 638,767,780,943, and 951. It is an ecumenical group with an emphasis on “spirituality.” The music can be misused as simple repetitive mantras for the sake of generic spirituality apart from the spirituality of the cross but the music was intentionally composed for meditation on Christ, His Word, and the Sacraments, so it can also be used to add a helpful meditative aspect to traditional Lutheran worship. Traditional Lutheran worship is after all, ecumenical and spiritual in the best senses of the words. The following description from our service folder of our use of Taizé music is helpful.
The liturgy this evening features the music of Taizé, an ecumenical retreat community in France. The songs and antiphons of Taizé are designed to maximize the participation of a diverse community in the liturgy. Because of the varied backgrounds of the persons attending retreats at Taizé, and because of the limited rehearsal time available for the visiting musicians on the retreats, the musical style developed there emphasized simple elements crafted so that more complex elements could be superimposed on top of them. This allows for the theme of the song to be learned quickly by a crowd of persons, while permitting skilled musicians to layer additional parts on top of the theme. This method of composition, known as ostinato, was employed by many of the great musicians of the Baroque and Classical eras. In addition to allowing for a use of variety of musical talents, the variations also sustain the interest of the worshiper, even as a theme is repeated several times.
The use of theme and variations is the best tradition of Christian meditation, which is directed extra nos (“outside of us”) rather than within. These choruses are not mantras repeated in an effort to change our perception of reality, but instead are repetitive structures crafted to deepen our reflection on the Word and magnify our prayer.
We were missing a cello, oboe, and trumpet from our planned ensemble, but there was more than enough instrumentation to sustain interest. Enjoy the video and maybe it will help you and your parish to enrich the catholicity and spirituality of your traditional Lutheran worship. By the way, I bet you have never seen a squeeze box used in traditional Lutheran liturgy. We will led again by the accordion tonight as we sing Silent Night with our candles lit at the midnight mass. Thank you Cantor Magness! (The Taizé music begins around the 1:20 mark. This song is a canon and so goes longer than other songs used in the service.)