15 October 2008

The Minister's Positioning at the Invocation

The rubrics in Lutheran Service Book Altar Book give the following option at the Invocation: “The presiding minister may face the altar and sign himself, or he may face the congregation and mark them with the sign of the cross.”

I don’t remember rubrics that specified the direction the presiding minister should face in either LW or TLH. I looked quickly and couldn’t find one. In every church I attended growing up, the pastor faced the altar, and I have done so since being ordained. I don’t necessarily have an objection to facing and signing the congregation, but am wondering what the impetus is for that second practice versus the first.

Luther Reed in his “The Lutheran Liturgy” [page 254] instructs the minister to face the altar, with simple words that I would affirm:

This discussion reveals the difficulties which arise in attempting to classify parts of the liturgy too mechanically. Some are not wholly sacramental, others are not entirely sacrificial. There is a blending of these elements in some parts of the Service. Since, however, the minister by his position at the altar interprets the Service, and as there are only two positions he can take, it is necessary to determine the prevailing character of each part. In the case of the invocation it is better to take the words as Luther, the Reformers, and the ancient church used them in this connection, that is, as primarily devotional in character and not as a proclamation addressed to the congregation. … The minister [therefore] leads the devotions of the congregation in this act and faces the altar.


William Weedon said...

Actually, the rubrics ARE there for TLH in any case. You have to look at the rubrics in the back where the sacrificial parts of the liturgy are listed and which the minister is to face the altar for. These include the invocation (AND the Words of Institution!!!!). It's on page 417 of The Lutheran Liturgy (Altar book for TLH).

wmc said...

We start the Divine Service in the back of the church, so I face the altar and the congregation. I cross myself. I just love both/and solutions, don't you?

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

For those who prefer an either/or solution, a reader asked the same question in the current issue of Gottesdienst, and the answer I gave was to recommend facing the altar, not only because that is the traditional posture, but because of the nature of the invocation. We are invoking God, calling on his name here, as we enter into his presence. It is not so much a moment of blessing as a moment of petition, a repetition of the Baptismal formula and of the congregation living according to its baptismal faith and prayer. Hence it is liturgically as much a sacrificial moment as any other moments when one faces the altar.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

I echo the previous comments regarding the traditional posture and add only that some significance attached to this posture (beyond that already noted) is that, with this posture, both the pastor and congregation are facing the altar together at the moment of the invocation.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

As Pastor Weedon has pointed out, there was a general rubric for TLH that identified the Invocation as one of the sacrificial elements of the Service; which meant that the pastor was to face the altar for it.

I believe there is a rubric somewhere, whether in LW or its Altar Book, that redefines the Invocation somewhat as being made over the people in remembrance of their Baptism. From what I have been told, this emphasis was one that Dr. Nagel favored.

My practice is to face the altar for the Invocation, in accordance with the long-standing older tradition. In this way, pastor and people together call upon the Name of the Lord as they enter into His presence.

Now, someone else may want to comment further on this, but my understanding is that the Invocation itself is something of an innovation, in so far as the beginning of the Divine Service is concerned. It was introduced in conenction with the rites of preparation, which are not properly part of the Divine Service to begin with.

In its most ancient development, the Divine Service began with a Collect (for the faithful and fruitful hearing of the Word), and then moved directly into the Readings of Holy Scripture. There are some similiarites to the Invocation, it seems to me, in the function of the Saluation and its response and in the Collect itself; whereby the pastor and people call upon the Name of the Lord for the active presence and assistance of the Holy Spirit for the respective vocations of preacher and hearers.

As far as the Invocation is concerned, in relation to the rites of preparation, there certainly is a strong association there with Holy Baptism; which does lend itself to the LW approach, with the pastor invoking the Name of God upon the baptized.

solarblogger said...

Why did the TLH editors take the Words of Institution sacrificially? (The wording is very clear. They do. No question.)

solarblogger said...

Oops. I mean The Lutheran Liturgy editors, who were likely also the TLH editors.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Simply speaking, the Verba Domini (or Words of Institution) are identified as one of the sacrificial parts of the Divine Service, because the pastor is to face the Altar for these Words. The reason for this is that the Verba are addressed, first and foremost, with reference to the elements; even though they are, of course, also spoken to the communicants.

Among the older generation of LCMS pastors and theologians, as I understand it from various sources, they would sometimes resort to standing at the side of the Altar, facing the elements in the center and positioned at a right angle to the congregation. That sounds a bit awkward, and it probably was, but it does go to show how intent they were on speaking the Verba with unambiguous reference to the particular elements concerning which the Lord Jesus declares: "This is My Body; eat it," and "This is My Blood; drink it."

Debates over prayer vs. proclamation, introduced within the LCMS from the ALC, caused a whole new way of thinking about the Verba. The Words were no longer understood as the form of the consecration of the elements, but as a proclamation to the people. Consequently, you begin to have some pastors turning their backs on (most of) the elements, in order to address the congregation! You basically end up having this debate between, more or less, the ALC and the LCA, as to whether the Verba are spoken to God (about Jesus) or to the people (about Jesus), but both sides of that debate were largely in agreement that the Verba were not consecratory. Surprisingly, the LCMS, for a time, ended up adopting the presumptions of that debate; which in turn affected LCMS practices.

Thankfully, it is clear from the rubrics for Lutheran Worship that the Verba are the consecration of the elements. If one reads closely, that is one of the more significant differences between LW and LBW.

Regarding the "sacrificial" character of the Verba, there are ways in which this can be understood rightly and evangelically; but I'm not sure to what extent it is worth it to make that effort. "Sacrificial" language is so freighted with baggage, and is usually understood with reference to propitiation, it is difficult to unpack this with respect to the Verba in a way that doesn't cause problems. One may consider that the Minister, acting within his vocation, conducts his office in faith as a sacrifice of thanksgiving in the presence of God. But that point can be made in other ways. More helpful is an understanding that the body and blood of Christ are the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the world; sacrifice, in this case, not as a verb (to sacrifice) but as a noun (that which has been sacrificed). But that touches upon the consecrated elements, not on the Verba as the form of the conseration. There is, finally, something to be learned from the Old Testament communion sacrifices, which were aimed mostly at the fellowship of eating the sacrifice together as the people of God. The Verba and the Sacrament of the Altar do bear connections and similarities to those precedents, but, ironically, more so with respect to the way in which the Verba are spoken to the people as a gracious invitation to eat and drink what is given.

I hope these somewhat scattered remarks are more helpful than confusing.

Rev. Jacob Sutton said...

The Good Shepherd Institute in a few short weeks at the FW Sem will be delving into "presiding with hospitality and grace" at the Divine Service, also called "towards a Lutheran liturgical style" in presiding at the Divine Service. I will be attending, and anxious to see how or if these types of questions are discussed and answered.

They barely have enough time in "Lutheran Worship" classes, at least as they were in my time there at FW, to truly discuss and delve into such matters. Rubrics and liturgical practice were pretty much self-study for those interested, or one saw different styles of presiding demonstrated in the chapel.

Perhaps this conference will be the time needed to say what they've always wanted to say on such matters. We shall see.

Rev. Rick Sawyer said...

Stuckwisch posted: Now, someone else may want to comment further on this, but my understanding is that the Invocation itself is something of an innovation, in so far as the beginning of the Divine Service is concerned.

Because of this, on the observance of feast days, I often omit he preparatory rite here and begin the Mass with the introit. In those cases, there is no invocation. I note also that in the LW version of Luther's German Mass (DS III), there was no preparatory rite. The service began with the entrance Psalm or Introit. The LSB added the rite of preparation. I appreciated the opportunity to teach people, using the LW DS III that the Mass historically began with the Entrance. I know our own rite of Corporate C/A migrated in by way of the Confiteor, the priest's private preparation, but I'm honestly not sure if the Invocation came alone with, or by some other way.

Reformationalist said...

At Shepherd of the Springs, we begin with Confession and Holy Absolution, with the pastor standing at the Baptismal font which is located in the center aisle at the back of the nave. So, the pastor is facing the font and the altar, but this is not understood as either a "sacrificial" or "sacramental" position.

Rev. Fr. Robert W. Schaibley, SSP