Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FW: De Tempore



Feed: Weedon's Blog
Posted on: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 4:32 PM
Author: (William Weedon)
Subject: De Tempore


In his wonderful presentation to the Deaconesses in Seward, Dr. Herl unpacked a few things that shaped Lutheran spirituality in the 16th century, and one of those was a strong sense of "de tempore" - that is, that the Church has a daily, weekly, and yearly way of moving through time and celebrating in time the great sacrifice of praise to the Triune God for His wonderful acts.

First, the daily:  morning and evening are times for prayer of the individual or household.  As we wake and greet the sun and remember the women meeting the Risen One at first light; and as we lay down to rest (or at the evening meal), and remember our own death and Christ's rest in the tomb, and how in the evening the people would throng about Him for healing, so we pray for those in need.  These are times for the reading of God's Word, the offering of intercessions, the singing of praises.

Second, the weekly:  Saturday afternoon there was Vespers with an opportunity for Confession (generally, all who would commune the next day came to Confession - the pastor had an exact count of his communicants that way.  "Announcing" for communion was a remnant of this).  Sunday early morning, the choir boys would sing Matins in the Church and an early sermon might be preached for the benefit of any domestics would had to have the meal ready by the time the family arrived home from the Divine Service.  Divine Service itself could be a monster of a liturgy - it could last up to three hours.  Not that everyone attended the whole thing, but the devout often did.  Think Praetorius' Mass for Christmas Day and you get a flavor of the richness of the Divine Service in those days.  Then a second Vespers would close out the Sunday, often with Catechism instruction attached in some way.  Additionally, Wednesday and Friday were regarded as days of penitence, when fasting and praying of the Litany was especially appropriate.

Third, the yearly: and here is where de tempore really comes into its own.  There is too much Jesus, too much new life in the Spirit, too many joys as children of the heavenly Father, to squeeze it all into a single Sunday.  So the Church of those days (as the Church had for centuries) delighted to string out across the year the various Feasts and Festivals like jewels.  Some, like the Easter Cycle, were closely tied to the weekly cycle; some, like Christmas or Annunciation or Apostles' Days were fixed on certain dates and could fall anytime during the week.  Each feast or festival arrived with its own joy, its own gifts for the faithful.

Lutheran spirituality was literally shaped in that joyous living out of time.  "Oh, it's Good Shepherd Sunday!"  "Oh, today's 'Wake, Awake, Sunday'" - you see, the hymnody and music that we inherited and that we continued to write came to fill our churches and mark the various feasts and festivals, and it would be greeted as an old friend when it showed up again on the given feast day.  Think of how we delight to welcome All Saints with "For All the Saints"; Reformation with "A Mighty Fortress" and you get the idea.

The de tempore spilled over into our prayers books.  Starck's is a perfect example.  Check out how there are weekly prayers (Morning, day, night) and immediately following it are the prayers for the festivals and such.  Luther's House-Postils came to great use in the homes on a Sunday evening, too, or other feast day, when Luther's sermon might be shared.  They were into sanctifying the DAY, not just an hour!


It's a great treasure of our Church, and a much underutilized aspect of Lutheran spirituality.  The more comfortable we grow with De Tempore, the more we realize the wisdom of the Church teaching us to sanctify time by welcoming each hour, each day, each feast or festival during the year, as a special gift of Christ!  We mark the passing of time in this world (that is passing away) with the praise of Him whose Appearing will bring in a new heavens and new earth - Him whose praise endures forever.

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