Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blessed is He

One of the Lutheran blogs I follow is Brothers of John the Steadfast, the organization that worked hardest to save Issues. Etc. Tuesday’s post is entitled “Note on Liturgy #17 — Sanctus.” I spotted an interested difference in worship, specifically regarding the Benedictus.

I grew up on 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and now (usually) attend a 1928 BCP parish. On my p. 77 of my first prayer book the Preface and Sanctus are rendered as
Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name; evermore praising thee, and saying

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy Glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.
Rite I of the 1979 PECUSA prayer book has this, and also adds the Benedictus
Here may be added
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Because of the 1928 BCP, in Hymnal 1940 the Sanctus doesn’t include the Benedictus until the 2nd Supplement (1981), which adds a new version of the Santcus (Hymns #796-801) with the Benedictus for all 8 communion services.

Among the LCMS hymnals, The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) is the oldest in my collection. Page 26 reports “The Sanctus” complete with the Benedictus:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth
Heav’n and earth are full of Thy glory;
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He, Blessed is He,
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.
Lutheran Worship (1982), as with PECUSA’s 1979 prayer book, offers old and new words. Divine Service I is similar to TLH, except “thy” becomes “your” and the refrain is “Blessed is he” not “He” — hopefully signifying a change in style, rather than in theology.

Rite II in PECUSA has the new words
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
and sure enough, Divine Service II of LW is the same, except it says “pow’r”.

However, “God of power and might” will be gone under the newly approved Catholic version of the Sanctus, reverting to a more faithful translation of the Latin text returning to original English text with this text:
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
The 1928 BCP (sans Bendictus) matches the 1662 COE prayer book — lacking the Benedictus found in the 1549 BCP. Although both the 1549 and 1552 prayer books were edited by Archbishop Cranmer, the Benedictus was removed in the 1552 BCP and apparently not restored until the 20th century.

Last year my Lenten discipline was reading about the history of the English prayer book. From that, I gathered that the four revisions of the prayer book during this turbulent century-plus (1549, 1552, 1559 and then 1662 after the Puritans were deposed) all centered on the inherent contradiction of how the Church of England was first defined: “Catholic and Reformed.” Henry, Edward and especially Elizabeth sought compromises that pleased everyone and no one to hold the church (and the country) together.

Dropping the Benedictus in 1552 was obviously a win for the Reformed (Calvinist) side. In his seminal The Story of the Prayer Book (1933: 71), Percy Dearmer (editor of The English Hymnal) notes that the Holy Communion service of the American BCP combines both the 1549 and 1552 approaches. He then wrote (p. 71) approvingly of the 1552 change to the Sanctus:
Proud are we of the First Model [1549], there is no less cause for pride in the Second, when we remember that its purpose is to provide a liturgy that is Apostolic rather than Patristic. The omission of the Introits, the Benedictus, and the Agnus is an advantage in which the First Model in its present use now shares (for they are no longer anywhere compulsory.). It was a good change; and even those who like to use these forms in the place of anthems or hymns, as is generally allowed to be legitimate, would not desire to have them all made compulsory again.
Somehow I never thought of the Lutherans as patristic, so I'd be curious to learn more about why they used the Benedictus during all these years that many (most?) Anglicans did not.


Vicar Josh Osbun said...

We need to get some terminology straight here. "Benedictus" in Lutheran terminology means the Song of Zechariah from Luke 1:68-79. This is used in Matins.

By "Benedictus" are you referring to the phrase, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord"? (I assume that's what you mean, but I want to be sure.)

Vicar Josh Osbun said...

A second clarification that would be helpful is how you are defining "apostolic" and "patristic." I see them mentioned in your quote from Dearmer. Again, I can make assumptions about what you mean by those terms, but, having been involved in enough theological discussions, when in doubt it is best to ask.

jleecbd said...

I admit, I'd love to see on what basis the assertion of apostolicity being to not use the "blessed..." The Liturgy of St. Mark doesn't have it, but the Liturgies of St. Peter and St. James does. Of course the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has it, but that would be Patristic.

jleecbd said...

"The liturgies of St. Peter and St. James do."

I need a grammar checker.

9.West said...

I am in the odd position of defending a position of 75 years ago that I don't fully understand.

I assume "apostolic" means Christian tradition not invented by Rome and "patristic" means Papist invention rejected by all right-thinking Protestants.

From my reading of the book, it appears that Dearmer's categorization derives from three sources. One, any early documents of 0-500 AD (since there are no written records of liturgy from the true "apostolic" era).

Second, evidence of divergence between Eastern and Roman worship that suggests that at least one (if not post) are divergent from the original rite.

Third, known changes made in the Roman church — apparently between 1000 and 1549, when there are reasonable records of the start and end point.

I realize that interpreting the various evidence is a huge source of controversy — between Catholic and Protestant, among Protestants and of course between East and West.

Vicar Josh Osbun said...

Thanks for the clarification.

Considering the "Blessed is He" does appear in the Liturgy of St. James (c. 370), I would not consider this to be a patristic rite.

That being said, the reformers never wanted to abolish the mass. In fact, they considered it of great necessity to maintain the mass as they were accustomed to seeing it. What they wanted to eliminate were the abuses (adoration of the saints, worship of the Sacrament of the Altar, etc.). And so this would not have been something that they would have considered to be problematic.

On top of that, its theological significance at the end of the Sanctus is overwhelming. "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord." Who is that apart from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is, in fact, physically coming to us in the blessed sacrament?

9.West said...

Dear Vicar Josh,

Thank you for your perspective as a trained theologian. I would certainly agree that something in the Liturgy of St. James is about as close to "apostolic" as the written record provides to us 1000 (or 1600) years later.

On pp. 58-59, his arguments about patristic would match yours. First he notes that Cranmer added the Prayer of Consecration, with the invocation of the Holy Spirit (Epiklesis, borrowing from the Eastern Liturgy of St. Basil -- should make JLee happy) from 4th century sources.

Then he rejects as patristic the Words of Institution ("This is my body ... This is my blood.") To quote

"This stress was increased in the Middle Ages by new ceremonies such as the Elevation; and consequently there arose the idea that the Eucharist is consecrated merely by the repetition of our Lord's words. Cranmer probably knew that there was no justification for this idea in early Church practice..."

Again, I am much further behind you in understand the ancient liturgies, so I appreciate your insights. I am trying to understand how Christian liturgical thought impacts what goes in the hymnal, and the lack of the Benedictus (the name given to that phrase by the Episcopal if not Anglican churches) turns out to be a problem in using the 1st and 2nd edition of the Hymnal 1940 today.

SineNomine said...

I believe the difficulty in "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" historically comes from a Protestant and Catholic disagreement. Vicar Osbun said that he would not consider "Blessed is he" patristic (papist), but that the reformers only wanted to eliminate the abuses of the mass--so "Blessed.." is not problematic. He goes on to say that "Blessed is he" refers to the the physical coming of Jesus in the sacrament. This is most definately patristic.

And, this is where the reformers had (and still have) a problem. Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli, Wesley, in the past and the reformed theologians of today all agree that Christ is not physically present in the sacrament. They generally agree that Christ is spiritually present in the sacrament.

Thus "Blessed is he" appears to be worship of the sacrament (i.e. Christ is there, let's worship). This theology was rejected during the reformation, is in opposition to the 39 Articles, is not evident in the theology other Anglican-derived denominations (Presbyterians, Methodists). When the Anglican/Episcopal church again begins to recognize the physical presence of Christ in the sacrament (and venerate the sacraments), they have returned (even if only partially) to Catholicism

Note: The ECUSA 1940 Hymnal uses the same formula for the Sanctus as the Methodist Hymnal through the 80s--without "Blessed is he". I cannot speak to the LCMS, but they are a newer division (1900s) within the Lutheran church and in some trappings more Catholic

9.West said...


Thank you for your long and thoughtful comments. Love your signin name.

On the question of Real Presence, I would certainly agree that Calvin, Zwingly and presumably Knox see communion as symbolic. I've not read Wesley so I'd defer there.

I don’t see how you can say Real Presence is contrary to the 39 Article. Article 28 says "the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ." It doesn't get any more clear than that.

If Vicar Josh (like other LCMS pastors I know) says that Lutheran doctrine ascribes Real Presence (without benefit of Transubstantiation), then I'm inclined to believe him. My quick perusal of the Google book Luther on the Sacraments would support that view.

BTW, CFW Walther was a German-ordained Lutheran minister who founded the LCMS in 1847. So in American terms, they go back a ways. I don't know how they compare to German Lutheran doctrine of the day, and of course with the Nazi-created EKD German doctrine is now a bit of a mess.


Vicar Josh Osbun said...

Luther's stance on Holy Communion depends greatly upon whom he was debating. The Roman Catholic Church was contending transubstantiation. So Luther took an extreme position to the other side saying that the Christ's body was present spiritually. BUT, Calvin and Zwingli argued that Christ's body wasn't present at all, so Luther took an extreme position (but not as extreme as transubstantiation) stating that we truly eat Christ's body and blood.

Here's how it boils down in Lutheran theology: Christ's body and blood are really, truly present in Holy Communion. When we eat and drink the bread and the wine we also eat and drink Christ's body and blood. It's not that we receive the bread and wine physically and Christ's body and blood spiritually. We receive both physically. But this happens in a spiritual way.

We don't question the Word of God. Jesus says it's His body. Therefore, it's His body. He didn't leave us a treatise explaining how it happens. That's just the way it is.

The "Blessed is He" was not viewed as worship of the elements and thus it was not stricken from the mass of the Lutheran Reformation.

Considering "Blessed is He" existed even before the Great Schism and even before any real semblance of the Roman Catholic Church, it is correct to say that this is not a patristic teaching.

And considering that "Blessed is He" were the words spoken before Jesus Christ as He was physically entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the usage of these words in the mass can be interpreted in no other way than to reference the physical presence of Jesus among us as He comes in the Sacrament.

To say anything else leads to receptionism. It is what it is: bread and wine, body and blood.