Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lutheran Icons?

Pastor Rick Stuckwisch wrote this in the Lutheran journal, Gottesdienst, and Pr. Peterson reprinted it over at "Cyberstones". (For non-Lutherans, let me clarify that “the Verba” is Lutheran-speak for Christ’s words, “This is My Body…”, etc. and “This is My Blood…”, etc.)

Besides being charming, this little piece makes me think Lutherans have icons, too; it’s just that theirs are verbal rather than painted. But they still venerate ‘em.

As Father Grobien intoned the Verba, I could hear clearly and distinctly the voice of his youngest daughter, two-year-old Amelia, chanting with him from the congregation: word-for-word, note-for-note, in almost flawless unison. I had not heard her do this previously, but I am told that she commonly does the same thing along with me, when I chant the Verba (as is our practice at every Divine Service).

To hear Amelia's beautiful young voice gloriously lifting up the Words of her Lord along with her pastor, I was poignantly reminded of this further benefit and blessing of chanting those Words. Not only does the intonation of the Verba honor them and elevate them with the peculiar dignity that belongs to them by right above all other Words; it also more deeply implants the Verba in the hearts and minds of the Lord's people, both young and old.


Dixie said...

I recently listened to a Learning Company audio course on Luther which opened my eyes to things I didn't necessarily see when I was Lutheran. Words were everything to Luther. "How can we believe X? Because Christ said it and Christ doesn't lie." It starts there with words but goes further. A sacrament is a sacrament to Lutherans because it is instituted by Christ and it combines words with a thing. Like it takes words, bread and wine to make the Eucharist for Christ to be present in the bread and wine. It takes words and water to make Baptism. No sacrament. Faith comes by hearing [words]. In fact the Lutherans define the means of grace as Word and Sacrament but a sacrament is not a sacrament without words so I was taught in my Lutheran lay ministry training that in the end everything comes down to words. And, of course, there is the Gospel of John which tells us Christ is the Word made flesh. So words figure very large in Lutheranism. And it follows that sola scriptura is but a short step to and from this understanding of words.

You might be on to something here as far as verbal icons. I know a lot of Lutherans who kiss their bibles.

My husband is currently listing to the Luther series I mentioned. If you want to hear it after him...let me know. It approaches Luther from a historian's point of view...neither pro nor anti Luther. So Luther gets praises in some cases and boo's in others. I thought it was a reasonably fair treatment and an excellent audio.

William Weedon said...

Certainly such is Lutheranism, Dixie, but that was the heritage received from St. Augustine: Verbum accedat ad elementum et fit sacramentum. Luther once opined that Augustine never said anything more profound. :)

It also explains the huge development of MUSIC in Lutheranism, which music is in the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy just about sacramental all in itself, as it bears the Word (Incarnate, Crucified, and Risen) to us in Words.

Of course, in the same period, Lutherans bedecked their Churches with images right and left - but the images were always painted words, if you will, messages through the art. The Word itself remains the object of veneration (together with the Blessed Sacrament - which is Word made Flesh delivered via words!).

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Nothing can be made a sacrament by being joined to words. Words are only icons.

Let us not make them into God; that is not what "Logos" means. Logos means God's intelligible Mind. Intelligible to Himself, namely. God is able to know and understand fully His own Intellect.

"Intelligible" for us humans means articulate, able to be put into words, but God doesn't ever literally speak, even to Himself. Christ speaks, as Man, but His Father, no. Pure Spirit, He has no vocal cords, lungs, tongue, and mouth. Or native language.

The human words He inspires are but icons of God.

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