CHAPTER SIX: OTHER REGULAR ELEMENTS OF THE TRADITIONAL SERVICE
The western worship service, along with the ordinary and the propers, includes a few other parts described below:
The sermon, though it comes from Jewish antecedents, was not always stressed during the middle ages, and therefore does not have a definite traditional position within the flow of the service. Recent Lutheran hymnals have placed it either before or after the creed. Placing it before the creed allows it to follow immediately after the gospel, which is especially useful if the
sermon is to be based upon the gospel. The creed then is experienced as if it were the people’s response to hearing God’s word read and explained.
We previously stated that the benediction, quoting Numbers 6:24-26, was already used in the synagogue service. Christian services sometimes substitute the words of Paul in Second Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
After the Lord’s Supper, a song was sometimes added. The text is from Luke 2:29, the words which Simeon said when the baby] Jesus was taken to the temple. The words reflect our feelings upon having received holy communion:
Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according 1 your Word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the presence of all people/ A light to enlighten the Gentiles, and bring glory to your people Israel.
The technical term for a song from the Bible, other than a Psalm, is called a “canticle”. The custom of adding the “Gloria Patri” after a song is still found in this case. The Latin name for the song of Simeon is the “Nunc Dimittis”. which means “now let”. Tim Maschke in his book Gathered Guests says that the use of this canticle after communion is a “Lutheran contribution” to the western liturgical tradition, though he also notes that the Greek church does use this canticle also at the end of communion.5
The traditional service is conceived not as a performance but as a dialogue between leader and people. The idea of dialogue is carried out in the short portions called versicles (means “half-verses) and responses. The idea of quoting a single psalm verse during worship is already found in the synagogue. Before the first prayer of the eighteen blessings, Psalm 51:15 is sung: “Lord, Open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” In western traditional worship, this quote became a sung response between leaders and group when it was used in the early-morning worship form developed in the monasteries.1
The following fourth century document describes in detail
how leader and people engaged in versicles and responses. The
words here are used at the beginning of the holy communion
portion, and are still found today in Roman Catholic and Lutheran
Then the priest says in a loud voice: “Lift up your hearts”. Truly, at this awe-inspiring time we must raise our hearts to God and not let them sink down to the earth and our earthly affairs. The bishop therefore orders us at this moment to abandon all our everyday preoccupations and our domestic cares, and to keep our hearts in heaven, close to God, who loves men.
You then respond, “We turn them to the Lord”. You thus give your assent, you assert your agreement. Let no one, then, stand there and say with his lips only, “We turn them to the Lord”, while his mind remains absorbed by the cares of life. We ought indeed be constantly mindful of God, but if that is not possible because of human weakness, then at this moment above all we must make the effort to have him before us.
The priest says next: “Let us give thanks to the Lord.” We should indeed give thanks to the Lord, for he has called us to so wonderful a grace when we were unworthy of it; he reconciled us when we were still his enemies, he judged us worthy of the spirit of adoption.
You answer, “That is right and just”. When we offer thanks, we do a work that is right and just. As for God, however, he did not merely do what was just, but went far beyond what justice required when he heaped blessings upon us and deemed us worthy of such wonderful gifts.2
This set of responses, followed by the introduction to the Sanctus, called the “Preface”,6 and is included in present-day Lutheran hymnals.
Another set of phrases makes the dialogue between leader and people very personal. Here is a quote from a document from about the year 215:
Standing in the midst of the faithful, the bishop gives thanks; he begins with the greeting: The Lord be with you. And all the people answer: And with your spirit.3
In the fully developed service, this greeting (the technical term is “salutation” ) was used at three places: to introduce thereading of God’s word, to introduce the holy communion ceremony, and at the very end, to introduce a final reading from God’s word called the last Gospel. In the first and third of these a pattern is discernable:
Salutation – Let us pray -A collect – A scripture reading
As the middle ages progressed, the last gospel was omitted, but the salutation still appears near the end of the service.
If you use versicles and responses in your church service, the following quote from Manual to Lutheran Book of Worship challengesyou to either sing both, or speak both:
“For the leader and the congregation to engage in a dialog that is half spoken and half sung is not effective, logical, or consistent.”4
1. Quoted in Deiss op. cit. p. 122.
2. Quoted in Deiss op. cit. p. 284. From The Catecheses of Cyril of. Jerusalem (23.4), around 350 A. D.
3. Quoted in Deiss op. cit. p. 146. From The Apostolic Tradition of
Hippolytus of Rome, about 215 A. D.
4. Manual on the Liturgy, p. 89
5. Maschke, Timothy H., Gathered Guests, a Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing Company, 2003. Chapter 5.
6. The preface was a section at the beginning of the communion prayer that made reference to the season of the church year. Although Luther dropped it when he dropped the communion prayer, many Reformation churches in Germany retained it, and it has been included in the American Lutheran hymnals published during the past century. Maschke, op. cit.