Jul 5, 2012

Knowing it by heart

Every day we open the preschool with the raising of the Venezuelan flag and the singing of the national anthem, followed by a Scripture reading, the Lord's Prayer and a couple of songs. One song goes like this:
El amor de Dios es maravilloso,
El amor de Dios es maravilloso,
El amor de Dios es maravilloso,
¡Cuan grande es el amor de Dios!

Es tan alto que no puedo ir arriba de él,
Tan profundo que no puedo ir abajo de él,
Tan ancho que no puedo ir afuera de él,
¡Cuan grande es el amor de Dios!

This is based, more or less, on Romans 8:39, “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There are movements to accompany the words of the song. For example, when you sing, “It's so high that I cannot rise above it,” you lift your hands up as high as you can. You lower your hands as far as you can for “It's so deep that I cannot sink beneath it,” and spread them as far as you can for “It{ s so wide that I cannot go outside of it.”

IMG_0213.CR2 Luz Maria sang this song to her one-year-old granddaughter, Anyi, when Anyi was lying in a hospital bed with dengue fever. Despite the fact that dengue fever causes severe pain in the joints, Anyi began raising and lowering her hands in response to the song!
Rote learning may have a bad name in certain circles, but incidents like this illustrate its value. I am glad that a times of stress in my own life that I have not had to struggle to remember the creeds, the Lord's Prayer, key Bible verses and hymns. This I credit to the liturgical form of worship that we followed as a church (which was found in the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal for the first 20 years of my life).
For Sunday morning worship in La Caramuca, we follow the liturgy in Culto Cristiano, a Spanish-language hymnal first published by Concordia Publishing House in 1964. There has been no complete Spanish-language Lutheran hymnal published since then. Actually, many in the congregation, both children and adults, either cannot read at all or are semi-literate. However, the structure of the liturgy has enabled them to memorize the creeds, the Lord's Prayer, various hymns and the numerous Bible verses that are used in the liturgy.
Our place of worship is only a roofed patio (we hope that soon we might build a real chapel). Our altar is only a white plastic lawn table. Nevertheless we decorate the altar in the appropriate liturgical colors, which also are reflected in the altar candles and my vestments. The liturgical colors are a visual aid to help everyone recall important events memorialized in the church calendar and to remind them that we are, in fact, marking time. We are counting down the days until the Lord's return.
A gentleman named J.A.O. Stubb once wrote of his early experiences in a Swedish-American Lutheran church: “As grandfather turned to the Altar and intoned the Lord’s Prayer and the words of consecration, with the elevation of the host and the chalice, I felt as if God was near. The congregation standing reverentially about those kneeling before the Altar, made me think of Him who, though unseen, was in our midst. I forgot the old, cold church with its bare walls, its home-made pews and its plain glass windows. I early came to know some words of that service, such as: “This is the true body, the true blood of Christ”; “Forgiveness of sins”; “Eternal life.” I venture that all who, like me, early received such impressions of the Lord’s Supper, will approach the Altar or the Communion with a reverence that time will but slowly efface.” (J.A.O. Stubb, D.D., “Vestments andLiturgies”, 1920).
Of course, the Lutheran liturgy is not the invention of Swedish-Americans, nor of German-Americans, nor of any national/ethnic group, but rather is derived from pre-Tridentine versions of the Latin Mass (when people today speak of “the traditional Latin Mass”, usually they are thinking of the Tridentine Mass. This was developed at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and adopted as the standard order of worship by the Roman Catholic Church in 1570 (it would later be replaced as the norm by the post-Vatican II Novo Ordo in 1969).The Tridentine Mass was developed some time after the first specifically Lutheran form of the Latin Mass in 1523. As the Lutheran order of worship retained all the elements of the Mass except those that directly contradicted the principles of “Scripture alone, faith alone and grace alone,” the Tridentine Mass by design reflected the Council of Trent s rejection of those principles.
Nearly all Lutheran churches throughout the world use some form of the revised “Western rite”, translated into vernacular languages. One exception being the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, which subscribes to the Book of Concord, but uses an order of worship based on Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) liturgies. All variations of the Lutheran liturgy draw on the liturgical heritage of the ancient church (and beyond, since the worship of the early church was rooted in the liturgical worship of the Temple and the synagogues) as the most appropriate manner of conducting the ministry of the Word and the sacraments.
Christmas in June

DSC05791 Here in La Caramuca we got some presents early, as we were visited by a delegation from our national church, the Lutheran Church of Venezuela. The delegation included Pastor Elias Lozano, the newly elected president of the ILV; Pastor Miguelangel Perez, vice president of the ILV; and Pastor Abel Garcia, director of the Juan de Frias Theological Institute. They gave us some Spanish Bibles with Luther's Small Catechism included as an appendix. We hope to present them to our next group of confirmands.
These Bibles represent part of the work of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, an organization that has has published the catechism in more than 50 languages, and published and distributed more than 450 titles and 3 million Lutheran books to pastors, seminary students, missionaries and churches. The Bible translation used is the 1960 revision of the Reina-Valera Bible. This is our preferred translation. There are more contemporary Spanish translations, and I know the argument that contemporary translations based on earlier manuscripts should be better than the translations of the Reformation era based on the Textus Receptus (the Reina-Valera, King James Version and Luther's German Bible). Unfortunately, most contemporary translations either reflect more of the theological and political prejudices of the translators or fail to convey the meaning of the original text as powerfully as the older translations.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments: