Let me say from the beginning that I fully understand and am aware of all the liturgical, historical, and translation reasons that memorial acclamation 1, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again” was removed from the soon to be current translation of the Roman Missal. I’m a liturgical purist, and a little piece of me is completely fine with this omission. After all, it’s not in the “original” latin. Following the standards set by Liturgiam Authenticam, it’s not an o.k. acclamation. It’s not addressed directly to God. And if it isn’t introduced well it really can seem like a side note that gets stuck in, mid Eucharistic Prayer, to make sure everybody’s paying attention. And yes, sometimes I do giggle when we sing the mass of creation version because it evokes a feeling akin to mixing the imperial march from star wars with John Phillips Sousa, and then repeats itself just in case you haven’t had enough imperial marching around. All that to say: I get why it got dropped. 

Dropping the text itself doesn’t bother me that much, for all the afore stated reasons. But singing it at mass for the last time last night really, really bothered me. What bothers me is that I think Mother Church could have done this differently, and used this as a way to reach across the boundary of schism to begin healing a very deep wound. It’s not time for finger pointing- and I heartily admit that protestants have their share to do for healing reformation scars. I find shifting reformation blame completely uninteresting and unhelpful. But it dawned upon me last night that no longer will Protestants and Catholics use the same words to profess their hope in the realization of Christ’s kingdom. This new translation, particularly the point of the mystery of faith, could have been a point where liturgical Protestants (at least mainlines) and Catholics worked together and informed each other. If we had worked together, we still could have dropped memorial acclamation one, no big deal. And when I say we I mean here my whole extended Christian family, weird cousins and all. Protestant liturgy could have grown toward an arguably better expression of the mysterium fide. And Roman Liturgy might have benefited from looking at it’s own genetic development as it was passed down toward its grand children and great grandchildren. We (and here I mean Protestant we) did, after all, steal most of the Roman Rite originally. Just take a close look at the 1662 BCP or Luther’s first few german translations, and you’ll see what I mean.

Again, I find figuring out who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ for its own sake completely uninteresting and largely unhelpful. Everybody’s to blame for continued schism. What I do find interesting are opportunities for healing and union in the body of Christ. The liturgy can only be for the life of the world when it is the wellspring of the church’s life, it’s source and summit. I’m not angry at anyone, and I’m not even annoyed. I think I feel more like a parent, who knows what my beautiful and brilliant child is capable of, watching that same child settle for less. It makes me unspeakably sad to see yet another opportunity for healing and life pass my Christian family by, untried. In this particular move, I think all of us would have benefited from an aim toward eternal life along with formal latin. The two need not be diametrically opposed.

Let’s do better by each other next time, y’all. We’re family.

Chrysostom Christmas Liturgy

November 15, 2009

St. John Chrysostom’s golden mouth should not be relinquished to the history of the church. Part of the continued witness of saints is that we keep speaking their words as the ages roll on. The following is a litany I created by swaddling John 1:1-17 (adapted from NRSV) in portions of St. John Chrysostom’s Christmas Sermon.

The whole sermon is beautiful, and could honestly be preached if cited. However, I wonder if people might be more likely to comprehend the complexities by speaking at least some of them with their own lips alongside scripture. By intertwining those mysteries with the Prologue to John’s Gospel, I hope to facilitate a more mysterious encounter with this anything-but-cute baby. This baby isn’t adorably cute; this Child is God, who is worthy of adoration, come for the salvation of the world.

After all, in the liturgy we encounter Christ the Savior, swaddled.

Chrysostom Christmas Liturgy
Anna Adams, November 2009Mosaic, John Chrysostom

All: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

L: BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery! All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised. Ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. God willed, God had the power,

P: God descended, God redeemed; everything yielded in obedience to God.

L: This day He Who Is, is Born; and God Who Is, becomes what God was not. For when The Lord was God, God became human; yet not departing from the Godhead that is the Lord’s.

P: He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

L: For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

P: What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

L: What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.

P: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.

L: For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that we cannot see. For since people believe their eyes and not their ears,  He has decided to present Himself as a body, and remove all doubt.

P: The Word became flesh and lived among us. And we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

L: It is to God no debasement to put on What God made. Let this creation be forever glorified, because it wrapped around its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

P: All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

L:What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who is enthroned in Heaven lies in a manger. He Who cannot be touched, Who is God plain and true, without complexity, greater than creation, now lies subject to the hands of humanity.

P: From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

L: He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands.

P: He has decreed that lowliness become honor, humanity be clothed with glory, and set the servant as the measure of His Goodness.

L: For this the Lord assumed our bodies: that we may become capable of His Word; taking our flesh, God gives us His spirit; and so He bestowing and we receiving, the Lord prepares for us the treasure of Life.

P: God takes our flesh, to sanctify us; He gives us His Spirit, that He may save us.

L: Come, then, let us observe the Feast.

P: Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity.

All: For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ‘in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.

L: Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle.

P: God became Flesh. The Lord did not become God. The Lord was God.

A:  The Father of all ages, as an infant nursing, nestles in a mother’s arms, and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever.