Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mental Gymnastics

“Mental gynastics,” this is what Paul McCain flippantly calls using a word according to its actual meaning and according to the actual usage in the Scriptures.

If it requires this level of mental gymnastics to explain how not ascribing praise to the Lord is a way of being repentant, I think my point is made.

However, in order to force my post to “make his point” he had to change what I said, deleting portions and changing my words. This is very sad behavior, certainly not in keeping with honest communication. But this kind of contortion of the truth and torturing of words is common among those who desire to make their point regardless of clear reasoning and in spite of what is well intended and well thought out liturgical tradition.

What grieves me most is that McCain makes so much noise about issues like the theology of glory and enthusiasm and the thinking of the church growth movement and then deliberately divorces my comments from the clear connection that I made.

Who then is performing the “mental gynastics”?

Why make such a fuss over this? Why should I be concerned?

I am concerned regarding the false witness that is given through such abusive manipulations and dishonest presentations. I am concerned because the person’s personal opinion is elevated at the expense of the truth. I am concerned because gentle people who are daily confronted with the tomfoolery of the many schisms in Christendom are presented with still more tomfoolery and dishonesty paraded as wisdom and love. I am concerned because these things cause more confusion and often despair of finding true unity in the Church.

I also am concerned that truly helpful practices in the Church, ones that are not presented as anything more than beneficial and fine outward training, as Luther speaks of them in the Small Catechism under the Sacrament of the Altar, are turned into legalistic bondage. This is a tragedy.

For it is true, even as Luther rightly declares, although McCain and others quote Luther contrary to his intended meaning and context, “For the alleluia is the perpetual voice of the Church, just as the memorial of His passion and victory is perpetual.”

But in what context does Luther say this?

     Fourth, the gradual of two verses shall be sung, either together with the Alleluia, or one of the two, as the bishop may decide. But the Quadragesima graduals and others like them that exceed two verses may be sung at home by whoever wants them. In church we do not want to quench the spirit of the faithful with tedium. Nor is it proper to distinguish Lent, Holy Week, or Good Friday from other days, lest we seem to mock and ridicule Christ with half of a mass and the one part of the sacrament. For the Alleluia is the perpetual voice of the church, just as the memorial of His passion and victory is perpetual. Luther's Works (53:24)

Interestingly, Luther begins with limiting the gradual to two verses, and not only for Lent or Advent but for the entire Church year. He actually begins by omitting ascriptions of praise, saying that people can sing the rest at home at their leisure and in accord with the needs and desires of their hearts. Then he addresses the Alleluia that should not be omitted from the divine service.

What Alleluia is Luther holding as the perpetual voice of the Church? Is it not the same as St. Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 11, especially verse 26? “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.”

Regardless of the season of the Church year, is this not the pinnacle of the divine service? Does not the entire service prepare us for this very thing, the holy communion in Christ’s body and blood? Is this not the part of the service called the Eucharist or Thanksgiving? Is this not the very praise concerning which Christ Himself says: “Do This!”? Is there any higher ascription of praise in the cosmos than this?

This is the life of the Church and her perpetual voice of praise! In this proclamation of the Lord is the perfect Hallelujah! This is the greatest Hallelujah in the Church, because it is worked by the Lord Himself for us.

And when this is counted as the perpetual voice of the Church, who can diminish Alleluia from the hearts and daily activity of the saints?

For example, yesterday, as I contemplated many things, including this one, the Triple Hallelujah (TLH pg. 20) began to resound in my heart and mind. Someone was singing it inside of me. Who could that have been? As I grieved over my deepened awareness of my sinfulness and my desperate need for the repentance that the Holy Spirit produces, inside from deep within this song began to reverberate, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

I thought, “Thank you, Lord. How marvelous!”

Omitting this in the divine service does not steal the Alleluia from the holy communion of the saints. The absence of this portion of the regular liturgical responses magnified my awareness of my need for the source of all alleluias. That source will not be silenced.

If someone wants to label as mental gymnastics the ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit to work His metanoia in my heart and mind, so be it. Surely I cannot deny that the Holy Spirit wrestles tirelessly within me to bring about the needed change of my heart and mind. Perhaps McCain is right after all in labeling this mind altering work of the Holy Spirit as mental gymnastics.

1 comment:

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Hi Not Alone +++ PAS!
I got your point and I see eye to eye with you! It's a shame what Paul McCain did to your blog. I think working with such a jerk doesn't make sense at all.