Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

10 May 2010

Benedictine Lutherans


As I discovered in my youth, the Missouri-Synod Lutherans deliberately cultivate a Benedictine spirituality amongst their membership. I initially came into contact with the ancient Liturgy of the Hours in Herbert Lindemann, ed., The Daily Office, subtitled, “Matins and Vespers, Based on Traditional Liturgical Patterns, with Scripture Readings, Hymns, Canticles, Litanies, Collects, and the Psalter, Designed for Private Devotion or Group Worship” (St. Louis: Concordia, 1965). I purchased this little volume at the bookstore of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, back in 1978. In recent weeks I have been praying through this book: Treasury of Daily Prayer, also published by Concordia two years ago. This was on the recommendation of the Rev. Paul McCain, the Publisher at Concordia and former Evangel blogger. Unlike the earlier book, this one is huge, taking up 1,500 pages, which means it does not travel easily. At this point I plan to use this resource for one year, after which I will write a review. The Concordia website includes a preview.

For now I will note two things. First, musical settings for the prayer offices are included, which would be wonderful for use in a community devoted to this form of prayer, albeit less appropriate for personal private prayer. Second, each day is assigned an Old Testament and a New Testament lesson. The OT readings for the season after Easter are from the Pentateuch, and I have noticed that they tend to focus on some of the harsher elements within those first five books, such as the death of Aaron's sons (Leviticus 10:1-20), punishments for sexual transgressions (Lev. 20:10-16) and the punishment for blasphemy (Lev. 24:10-16). Given my belief that all of scripture is God's word, I have no objection to the inclusion of such passages in what is effectively a one-year lectionary. Yet given the confessional Lutheran emphasis on the tension between law and gospel, I cannot but wonder whether the selection of readings is part of a larger agenda. I suspect I will know once I've made my way through more of the readings.

I wish that more Reformed Christians would adopt something of this pattern of Benedictine daily prayer and that our churches would publish their own resources for this. Tapping into this ancient pattern would greatly enrich our practice of prayer.

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11 Comments:

  • you wrote:
    "I wish that more Reformed Christians would adopt something of this pattern of Benedictine daily prayer"

    But there is already a distinct Reformed piety that is almost utterly neglected by professing Reformed Christians and churches. Why encourage an alien piety when the incomparable riches our native one are still unknown by so many?

    By Blogger Baus, at 3:14 AM  

  • Gregory, this is by no means an alien piety. The Reformers recovered the singing of the psalms for congregational use, but they had been sung through regularly in the monasteries for hundreds of years before the 16th century. The Reformers sought to recover these patterns for all Christians and not only for those in the monasteries. Their aim is still in large measure unfulfilled.

    By Blogger David Koyzis, at 11:36 AM  

  • The problem for LCMSers is, according to many Lutheran and ex-Lutheran friends, that the LCMS has become very much a low-church evangelical group such that such piety has been abandoned in favor of praise songs, etc. Jaroslav Pelikan famously complained that he would become Orthodox when the LCMS were fundamentalists and the ELCA were liberal Protestants.

    He was received in 1999.

    By Blogger Dave Deavel, at 6:03 PM  

  • We have attended an LCMS church in Hillsdale, Michigan, on occasion, and it hasn't appeared especially low-church and evangelical to us.

    By Blogger David Koyzis, at 6:48 PM  

  • Dr.K, it appeared to me that you were recommending (not the regular daily or congregational use of the Psalms, but rather) a liturgy of hours.

    So, when you recommend the adoption of "something of this pattern of Benedictine prayer," what do you mean then?

    By Blogger Baus, at 3:02 AM  

  • I mean the regular pattern of praying through the psalms and immersing oneself in scripture on a daily basis. This is what the liturgy of the hours is all about. It can be used individually and communally. There is nothing in this that is at all alien to the Reformed tradition. The Reformation at its best sought to reform the liturgies of the churches, not to replace them.

    By Blogger David Koyzis, at 10:29 AM  

  • Perhaps not every LCMS, but there is one I went to with a friend in Ypsilanti that was very much that way. The claim, as you know, is not that every LCMS is that way, but that this is the trend. Again, I get this from Lutherans; I have no scientific studies of Sunday morning practices.

    By Blogger Dave Deavel, at 12:02 PM  

  • If the reformers also would adopt the idea of theosis, then there would indeed be an Eastern Orthodox spirituality.

    By Anonymous Gerard, at 12:11 PM  

  • Indeed we ought to recover the historic practice and doctrine of the Reformed church.

    By Blogger Baus, at 8:34 PM  

  • By Blogger 惠珠XiomaraG_Pad, at 9:57 PM  

  • Thanks for the link to Bredenhof's blog, Gregory.

    By Blogger David Koyzis, at 11:48 AM  

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