Friday, July 4, 2008

An Appeal for Vestments and Liturgy

I didn't see a date given when this paper was originally presented, but it is an interesting historic overview and a plea for vestments and the liturgy by By J. A. O. STUB, D. D., pastor at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN.

Here is an excerpt:

The story of the unfortunate changes in the vestments of the clergy, the use of the sign of the cross, candles, the color symbolism of the church, etc., wrought by rationalism particularly in Germany and to a lesser degree in Scandinavia, is too lengthy a chapter for this article. The reason rationalism did not succeed so well in removing the external tokens of Lutheranism in the Scandinavian countries, was this: their kings were Lutheran, at least in name.

Suffice to restate our premise: What Reformed kings had not finished, was completed by rationalism; and the historic church, which Luther wanted to name, “The Evangelical Christian Church,” became in its vestments and liturgy largely a copy of the Calvinistic sects.

Luther retained the Communion vestments which were considered an entirely neutral matter. In the order of the mass of 1523 Luther says that: “The vestments may unhindered be used when pomp and luxury be avoided, but they should not be dedicated or blest.” This position was, however, the very opposite of that of the fanatics who wanted to abolish all the ancient and historic vestments, liturgies, etc., etc. This placed Luther in the peculiar position, t.’ hat he was forced to emphasize liberty in these Matters by emphasizing the liberty to continue the use of the ancient Communion vestments. In the fall of 1524 he thus wrote:

Here we are masters and will not submit to any law, command, doctrine, or verdict. (Suppose Luther had been living in 1737!) Therefore has the service of the Communion been celebrated in both ways at Wittenberg. In the monastery we have celebrated the mass without chasubles, or elevation—with the greatest Simplicity as recommended by Karlstad. In the parish church we have chasubles)’albs, Altar, and elevate so long as it pleases us.”

In 1526 he retained the vestments, candles, and Altar. In 1528 he contended against fanatics again, and insisted on liberty to continue vestments, etc. In 1539 Luther said:

“When only the Word may be preached in its purity and the Sacraments rightly celebrated, then go in God’s name in procession and wear a silver or gold cross; wear a cope and surplice of silk or linen; and should your master, the duke, be not satisfied with one cope or surplice—put on three, as Aaron, the chief priest, did put on three, which were beautiful and glorious—wherefore the vestments in the days of the pope were ‘Ornamenta’—for such things (when otherwise no abuse takes place) neither add to nor take away from the Gospel.”

In the motion picture depicting the story of the English nurse, Edith Cavel, is a scene that made a deep impression upon the audience. The nurse is in the death cell awaiting her execution. The title on the screen announces the visit of “the Lutheran priest.” He comes in that conventional black robe, which several makers of robes catalog as “the Lutheran gown.” I have never liked it. It makes no appeal to the eye.

I could almost sympathize with the nurse, who asks for an “English priest.” A Church of England “priest” is then ushered into the cell. Over his arm he carries the neat surplice of the old Christian Church, and the colorful stole, the mark of the ordained clergyman. Shortly after, he appears vested, seated opposite the doomed nurse, facing her across the table. Then she makes that beautiful confession: “I have come to see that patriotism is not enough.”

here is instinctively a catch in your throat and a mist before your eyes. And, as a Lutheran, I felt that in this contrast of vestments our faith was made to appear somber and joyless. No wonder an esthetic and refined soul longed for the simpler and more cheerful vestments of her church, than that black robe with its many shirrings and clumsy sleeves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I found a source of custom vestments to be

They are very creative and make very high quality products.