Chausubles and Maniples and Stoles, Oh My!

Are you a fan of "High Church"... or "Low Church"? If you've not heard these terms before, you're probably going to the same denomination you did while growing up. Let's try this: When you look at these photos, do you think "That's too Catholic"?

Unless you follow such things, you may not be aware of just how big the schism about worship style is in the overall Christian community. True, part of the fallout of the Protestant Reformation was an independence from the Roman Catholic church. Overtime however, there came to be an accompanying distancing of THE WAY worship was conducted in the emerging denominations. It got to the point where following a structured liturgy, or using the same trappings during a service at all made a church "too Papist". It was more than just visual though...

As explained in "Low Church and High Church":

"This can be exemplified in the split between Luther and Zwingli over this very issue. Zwingli thought that Luther had not gone nearly far enough in breaking from Rome, while Luther genuinely wanted only to reform the Church, not totally remake it.

This led to the two well known criteria for church practice. Luther held a maximalist ("Normative") view that whatever was not specifically forbidden in Scripture could be practiced by the Church in its worship. So he continued many of the long established practices of the Church. Zwingli took the minimalist ("Regulative") view and held that only those things that were specifically allowed in Scripture could be practiced in the Church."

Luther's view of continuing to follow Liturgies and use the ceremonies and articles of worship led over the centuries to what became the "High Church", with formal structure and a bit of pomp as well as strong ties to the historic Christian Church.

Zwingli's view was to follow only those practices that are specifically commanded in Scripture or that have justification from Scripture in the practice of the early church are acceptable as legitimate means of worship. As such, he endorsed stripping the long established practices of the Church such as the Mass, and more elaborate aspects of worship that had developed in the medieval period such as ornate vestments, incense, the proliferation of statues, the use of scepters, crucifixes, etc.

In doing so, what appeared to be a very-Lutheran sola scriptura (“scripture alone”) approach as the basis for doctrine disregarded the rich Old Testament history of ritual, vestments, and grand places of worship.

Time for a definition here, and with it a reminder of the words we state every time we recite the Third Article of The Apostles Creed:

"I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting."

"Catholic" simply means "Universal", as in "All believers are members of the church Catholic". In the minds of many Protestants, especially those of recent vintage from 20th Century denominations in the US, the word Catholic is invariably equated with "Roman Catholic"... which unintentionally ads to confusion and does everyone a long-lasting disservice.

What does all of this have to do with the title "Chausubles and Maniples and Stoles"? The Lutheran Church is solidly in the High Church side of the chasm, as made obvious by the vestments worn by Pastor Rebecca and the Acolyte, and the carrying of the Cross, as seen in the photos above. Without knowing anything else about our congregation or denomination, plenty of serious Low Church Christians would turn right around and walk out of our Sanctuary upon seeing the many "Accouterments" on the Pastor, as well as the Altar. "Too Catholic!" (Kind of a religious version of "It's a Communist Plot!" during the Cold War...)

The article from which this post's title comes includes:

"So, while there may be whispers and chants of "Chasubles and Maniples and Stoles, OH MY!"... the pastor in possession of them and who uses them is indeed in good company, not simply in the church catholic, but also in the Lutheran tradition specifically."

In the bulk of the post, author Ernst Zeeden is quoted presenting a description of the practices of wearing Liturgical vestments in the church of the Lutheran Reformers and their heirs. (As author of "The Survival of Medieval Ceremonies in the Lutheran Reformation", he should know!)

After quoting Mr. Zeeden's description, the post's author concludes with:

"Wait. What!?! "The chasuble was, like the ceremonies, regarded as a symbol of the difference between Calvinism and as a criterion for pure Lutheranism"?

Yes, indeed, that is what churches of the Lutheran Reformation did to distinguish themselves from all the Protestant sects. They showed themselves to be catholic—not papist—catholic, that is, "quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus" ("That which was always, and everywhere, and by all"). In other words, they taught what they believed by what they did and what they wore in the Divine Service."

When you see Pastor Rebecca, or any other Lutheran Pastor (or Bishop) leading worship, know that they, and you, are maintaining a centuries-old legacy of Liturgical form and appearance... something Martin Luther would instantly recognize if he were to join us at church one day.

Both articles used as reference in this post (one long-ish, one very short) are well worth your time, in providing some relevant history as well as clarification about "How we got here". Links: Christian Resource Institute - "Low Church and High Church" Gottesdienst, The Journal of Lutheran Liturgy - "Chausubles and Maniples and Stoles, Oh My!"

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