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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why Define Liturgy?


Sometimes a nit-picky little distinction can help make an important point or a basic clarification.

For example, while by etymology "liturgy" is the "work of the people"; by definition, it is the official communal prayer ritual of a faith community. 

Making this distinction is important if one wants to develop good liturgical practices. 

To go a bit further, liturgy includes all the various contents of prayer: adoration, petition, repentance, and gratitude.  Liturgy is not merely "public worship", which implies that it is always about adoration. This is a common failing of some of the more entertainment oriented churches marketing themselves as "contemporary". Almost all their efforts go into “worship and praise” music.

Nor is liturgy formless.  By nature it is ritual, lacking in variety, developing its own repetitive rhythms into which the members of the assembly can settle and relax. Liturgy operates within the same sort of rules and predictable behavior as team sports which reward creativity and inspiration within the rules necessary to the activity. Sports rules are traditional, yet controlled and modified by the governing authorities. Today these authorities are often worldwide.  Variations from Olympic standards are usually controlled by national authorities. 


We used to refer to some services as para-liturgical. They were not part of the official ritual of the international church, even though they used similar contents and formats.  They were still public prayer and in ritual form, but they were composed for local conditions and needs.

It is also important to know that liturgy is communal by nature and by definition, which is why the desire of people to pray privately in the liturgical space is so misplaced.  Their desire for meditation or personal recitation does not comport well with the gathering and activity of the praying community.  It is these individuals who need to respect the nature of the community, rather than asking the community to respect their wishes for private prayer in the communal space. This is true by the very definition of liturgy. 

Yet, there is a real need for some people to have devotional space to help them maintain the mood of private prayer. Most congregations probably should consider creating a meditation chapel, whether it focuses on a tabernacle or some other devotional object. Yet, this space is not the same, does not have the same purpose, as the gathering space for the assembly.

Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
[Matthew 6:5-6 NRSV]
 
Jesus told us to pray as individuals in private because the universal God knows our personal needs.  The community prays in public spaces where our neighbors join us in professing faith, and we get to know each other and support each other in publicly following of the way of Jesus. 

Liturgy continues to be, in its own evolved way, the work of the people, but that is not what defines it.  Liturgy, by definition, is ecclesiastical, ritual, communal prayer.  When preparing a service, keep all these basic elements in mind.


Prayer includes
adoration [praise/worship],
gratitude [thanksgiving/eucharistia],
repentance [sorrow/purpose of amendment], and
intercession [for assistance/guidance].


Communal Prayer takes place in community, not just in public.

Ritual Communal Prayer involves a known pattern into which the communal, local, and seasonal are worked according to the nature of the ritual itself.

Ecclesiastical Ritual Communal Prayer is governed by the faith community to which the congregation is connected. The rules are there to provide unity and familiarity for the members of the congregation. They are the starting points within which planners and ministers are challenged to perform with excellence. They are no more limiting than are the rules of games. One is not to change the ritual of the church to fit one's own concepts and talents, but called to use one's talents to carry out the concepts of liturgy for the benefit of the congregation.

THIS IS HOW LITURGY REMAINS THE WORK OF THE PEOPLE. It is carried out by the people themselves with the help of those called to assist, to minister to, the people. Keep the rituals moving. Enunciate and project. Rehearse in detail and at whatever length it takes to maintain the flow and avoid pauses in the service. Know the difference between elements which are ends and which are means, and keep the focus on the high points of the ritual instead of the minor actions.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Holyday to Holiday or Vice Versa

Halloween

{A compilation and combination of material from Wikipedia by Tom Poelker}
Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of its original title "All Hallows' Evening"), also known as All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows. According to some scholars, All Hallows' Eve was originally influenced by western European harvest festivals and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly the Celtic Samhain. Others maintain that it originated independently of Samhain, and has Christian roots. Over time, the night of October 31 came to be called All Hallows' Eve (or All Hallows' Even). Samhain influenced All Hollows' Eve and vice-versa, and the two eventually morphed into the secular holiday known as Halloween.

All Saints and its Eve

The Western Christian holiday of All Saints' Day falls on 1 November, followed by All Souls' Day on 2 November. They were a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed who had yet to reach Heaven.
The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. There is evidence that from the fifth through the seventh centuries there existed in certain places and at sporadic intervals a feast date on 13 May to celebrate the holy martyrs. The origin of All Saints' Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been observed on various days in different places. However, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of 13 May, the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of "all the dead".
The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", with the day moved to 1 November and the 13 May feast suppressed.
In 835, Louis the Pious switched it to 1 November in the Carolingian Empire, at the behest of Pope Gregory IV.[46] However, from the testimony of Pseudo-Bede, it is known that churches in what are now England and Germany were already celebrating All Saints on 1 November at the beginning of the 8th century. Thus, Louis merely made official the custom of celebrating it on 1 November. James Frazer suggests that 1 November was chosen because it was the date of the Celtic festival of the dead (Samhain) – the Celts had influenced their English neighbors, and English missionaries had influenced the Germans. However, Ronald Hutton points out that, according to Óengus of Tallaght (d. ca. 824), the 7th/8th century church in Ireland celebrated All Saints on 20 April. He suggests that the 1 November date was a Germanic rather than a Celtic idea. The octave [Eight days of celebration including and following a feast.] was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).
By the end of the 12th century they had become holy days of obligation across Europe and involved such traditions as ringing bells for the souls in purgatory. "Souling", the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for "all crysten christened souls", has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door on All Saints/All Souls collecting soul cakes, originally as a means of praying for souls in purgatory. Similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of "puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas." The custom of wearing costumes has been linked to All Saints/All Souls by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote: "It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities". In Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Nicholas Rogers explained Halloween jack-o'-lanterns as originally being representations of souls in purgatory. In Brittany children would set candles in skulls in graveyards
In Britain, these customs came under attack during the Reformation as Protestants berated purgatory as a "popish" doctrine incompatible with the notion of predestination. This, coupled with the rising popularity of Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) from 1605 onward, led to Halloween's popularity waning in Britain, with the noteworthy exception of Scotland. There and in Ireland, they had been celebrating Samhain and Halloween since at least the early Middle Ages, and the Scottish kirk took a more pragmatic approach to Halloween, seeing it as important to the life cycle and rites of passage of communities and thus ensuring its survival in the country.
The festival of All Saints was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between 31 October and 6 November. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. In the Church of England it may be celebrated either on 1 November or on the Sunday between 30 October and 5 November. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada, the Methodist churches, and the Wesleyan Church.
Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and if they observe All Saints Day at all they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those who have died who were members of the local church congregation. In some congregations, a candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person's name is called out by the clergy. Prayers and responsive readings may accompany the event. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are affixed to a memorial plaque.
In many Lutheran churches, All Saints' Day and Reformation Day are observed concurrently on the Sunday before or after those dates, given Reformation Day is observed in Protestant Churches on 31 October. Typically, Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" is sung during the service. Besides discussing Luther's role in the Protestant Reformation, some recognition of the prominent early leaders of the Reformed tradition, such as John Calvin and John Knox, occurs. The observance of Reformation Day may be immediately followed by a reading of those members of the local congregation who have died in the past year in observance of All Saints' Day. Otherwise, the recognition of deceased church members occurs at another designated portion of the service.

November First and Samhain

When All Saints was moved to 1 November, it fell on the Celtic holiday of Samhain, [(säÆwin) a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the 'darker half' of the year. Most commonly it is held on 31 October–1 November, or halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. Along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh it makes up the four Gaelic seasonal festivals. ] which had a theme similar to the Roman festival of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival. The Irish, having celebrated Samhain in the past, did not celebrate All Hallows Day on this 1 November date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: "...the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches [in Ireland] celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20."
Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature. Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. In much of the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them, as at Beltane. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a time when the 'door' to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. It has thus been likened to a festival of the dead. People also took steps to protect themselves from harmful spirits, which is thought to have led to the custom of guising. Divination was also done at Samhain.
Samain or Samuin was the name of the feis or festival marking the beginning of winter in Gaelic Ireland. It is attested in some of the earliest Old Irish literature, from the 10th century onward. It was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals: Samhain (~1 November), Imbolc (~1 February), Beltane (~1 May) and Lughnasadh (~1 August). Samhain and Beltane, at the witherward side of the year from each other, are thought to have been the most important.

Sir James George Frazer wrote in The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion that 1 May and 1 November are of little importance to European crop-growers, but of great importance to herdsmen. It is at the beginning of summer that cattle is driven to the upland summer pastures and the beginning of winter that they are led back, which was also the time to choose which animals would need to be slaughtered for the people to survive the winter. This custom is still observed by many who farm and raise livestock because it is when meat will keep since the freeze has come and also since summer grass is gone and free foraging is no longer possible.

Thus, Frazer suggests that halving the year at 1 May and 1 November dates from a time when the Celts were mainly a pastoral people, dependent on their herds. In medieval Ireland the festival marked the end of the season for trade and warfare and was an ideal date for tribal gatherings. These gatherings are a popular setting for early Irish tales.

Samhain (like Beltane) was a time when the 'door' to the Otherworld opened enough for fairies and the dead to communicate with us; but while Beltane was a summer festival for the living, Samhain "was essentially a festival for the dead". The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn says that the sídhe (fairy mounds or portals to the fairy world) "were always open at Samhain". Like Beltane, Lughnasadh and Imbolc, Samhain also involved great feasts. Mythology suggests that drinking alcohol was part of the feast, and it is noteworthy that every tale that features drunkenness is said to take place at Samhain.

In Scotland, these bonfires were called samhnagan, and they were usually made from flammable materials like ferns, tar-barrels, and anything else that would burn. In the late 18th century, John Ramsay of Ochtertyre wrote that, in that part of Scotland, a ring of stones was laid round the fire to represent each person. Everyone then ran round it with a torch, "exulting". In the morning, the stones were examined and if any was mislaid it was said that the person for whom it was set would not live out the year. A similar practise was observed in north Wales and in Brittany. James Frazer says that this may come from "an older custom of actually burning them" (i.e. human sacrifice).

In Moray, boys asked for bonfire fuel from each house in the village. When the fire was lit, "one after another of the youths laid himself down on the ground as near to the fire as possible so as not to be burned, and in such a position as to let the smoke roll over him. The others ran through the smoke and jumped over him". It is likely that the smoke was thought to have protective powers.

In 19th century northeast Scotland, people carried a torch of fir wood around their fields to protect them. On South Uist, people did likewise with burning turf. Sometimes, two bonfires would be built side by side, and the people—sometimes with their livestock—would walk between them as a ritual of purification. The bones of slaughtered cattle were said to have been cast upon bonfires. In the pre-Christian Gaelic world, cattle were the main unit of currency and the center of agricultural and pastoral life.

In some parts, people doused their hearth fires on Samhain night. Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the communal bonfire, thus bonding the families of the village together. In the 17th century, Geoffrey Keating wrote that the druids of ancient Ireland would gather on Tlachta on Samhain night to kindle a sacred fire. From this, every bonfire in the land was lit, and from thence every home in the land relit their hearth, which had been doused that night. However, his source is unknown, and Ronald Hutton supposes that Keating had mistaken a Beltane custom for a Samhain one]

As noted earlier, beings and souls from the Otherworld were said to come into our world at Samhain. It is still the custom in some areas to set a place at the Samhain feast for the souls of dead kinfolk and to tell tales of one's forebears. However, the souls of thankful kin could return to bestow blessings just as easily as that of a murdered person could return to wreak revenge. Fairies were thought to steal humans on Samhain and fairy mounds were to be avoided. People took steps to allay or ward-off these harmful spirits and fairies. They stayed near to home or, if forced to walk in the darkness, turned their clothing inside-out or carried iron or salt to keep the fairies at bay. Offerings of food were left at the door for the fairies to ensure their favor in the coming year. Turnip lanterns, sometimes with faces carved into them, were common at Samhain in the 19th century in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. The purpose of these lanterns may have been threefold. They may have been used to light one's way while outside on Samhain night; to represent the spirits and otherworldly beings; and/or to protect oneself and one's home from them. Bettina Arnold writes that they were sometimes set on windowsills to keep them out of one's home However, others suggest that they originated with All Saints/All Souls and that they represented Christian souls in purgatory.

Wearing costumes and masks (or 'guising') may have been another way to befuddle, ward-off or represent the harmful spirits and fairies. Guising or mumming was common at winter festivals in general, but was "particularly appropriate to a night upon which supernatural beings were said to be abroad". Before the 20th century, guising at Samhain was done in parts of Ireland, Mann, the Scottish Highlands and islands, and Wales. In Ireland, costumes were sometimes worn by those who went about before nightfall collecting for a Samhain feast. On Samhain in parts of southern Ireland during the 19th century there was a Láir Bhán (white mare) procession. Someone covered in a white sheet and carrying a decorated horse skull (representing the Láir Bhán) would lead a group of youths, blowing on cow horns, from house to house. At each, they recited verses and those inside were expected to donate food and other gifts. The greater the donation, the greater the blessings that would be bestowed on them by the 'Muck Olla'. This is akin to the Mari Lwyd (grey mare) procession in Wales. Some have linked this custom with pagan goddesses of sovereignty, who were often associated with white horses. In Scotland, young men would dress in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. This was common in the 16th century in the Scottish countryside and persisted into the 20th. Hutton writes: "When imitating malignant spirits it was a very short step from guising to playing pranks". Playing pranks at Samhain is recorded in the Scottish Highlands as far back as 1736 and was also common in Ireland, which led to Samhain being nicknamed "Mischief Night" in some parts. Guising and pranks at All Saints isn't thought to have reached England until the 20th century, though mumming had been done at other festivals. At the time of mass transatlantic Irish and Scottish immigration, which popularized Halloween in North America, Halloween in Ireland and Scotland had a strong tradition of guising and pranks. Trick-or-treating may have come from the custom of going door-to-door collecting food for Samhain feasts, fuel for Samhain bonfires and/or offerings for the spirits and fairies. Alternatively, it may have come from the English All Saints/All Souls custom of collecting soul cakes.
Divination has likely been a part of the festival since ancient times, and it has survived in some rural areas. The most common uses were to find out the identity of one's future spouse, the location of one's future home, and how many children one might have. Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were often eaten in these rituals. Apples were peeled, the peel tossed over the shoulder, and its shape examined to see if it formed the first letter of the future spouse's name. Nuts were roasted on the hearth and their behavior interpreted - if the nuts stayed together, so would the couple. Egg whites were dropped in water, and the shapes foretold the number of future children. Children would also chase crows and divine some of these things from the number of birds or the direction they flew.
A Samhain custom thought to be a survival of a pagan ritual was observed on Iona until the late 18th century and on Lewis until the early 19th. On 31 October, the locals would go down to the shore. One man would wade into the water up to his waist, where he would pour out a cup of ale and ask 'Seonaidh' (anglicized as 'Shoney')—likely an old pagan god—to bestow blessings on them.