Auden on modern liturgies

A letter from the late poet W. H. Auden to his pastor, on the occasion of the church–St. Mark’s Episcopal in New York City–adopting a more modern liturgy:

77 St Mark’s Place
New York City 3

Nov. 26th [year not given]

Dear Father Allen:

Have you gone stark raving mad? Aside from its introduction of a lesson and psalm from the O.T., which seems to me admirable since few people go any more to Mattins or Evensong, the new ‘liturgy’ is appalling.

Our Church has had the singular good-fortune of having its Prayer-Book composed and its Bible translated at exactly the right time, i.e., late enough for the language to be intelligible to any English-speaking person in this century (any child of six can be told what ‘the quick and the dead’ means) and early enough, i.e., when people still had an instinctive feeling for the formal and the ceremonious which is essential in liturgical language.

This feeling has been, alas, as we all know, almost totally lost. (To identify the ceremonious with ‘the undemocratic’ is sheer contemporary cant.) The poor Roman Catholics, obliged to start from scratch, have produced an English Mass which is a cacophonous monstrosity (the German version is quite good, but German has a certain natural sonority): But why should we imitate them?

I implore you by the bowels of Christ to stick to Cranmer and King James. Preaching, of course, is another matter: there the language must be contemporary. But one of the great functions of the liturgy is to keep us in touch with the past and the dead.

And what, by the way, has happened to the altar cloths? If they have been sold to give money to the poor, I will gladly accept their disappearance: I will not accept it on any liturgical or doctrinal grounds.

With best wishes

[signed]

W.H. Auden

HT: Meghan Duke and Joe Koczera

Auden is not referring to “contemporary worship,” of course, just the folky trendiness of modern-language liturgies (think Catholic folk masses as opposed to the Tridentine Mass; Lutheran Worship, as opposed to The Lutheran Hymnal, though not nearly so much).  I believe this letter dates from 1968 and probably refers to some of the trial orders of worship that would lead up to the 1979 version of the Book of Common Prayer.  Still, what we now know as contemporary Christian worship arguably had its theological beginnings in the worship innovations of these liturgical churches, which adopted the principles of being community-centered, using modern music, and being culturally relevant.

Auden was arguably the greatest poet in English in the generation after T. S. Eliot.  Whereas Eliot, born in St. Louis, gave up his American citizenship to become a naturalized British subject, Auden did the reverse, giving up his British citizenship to become an American.  Both had been known for cutting edged bohemian radicalism and then converted to Christianity.  I suppose I should also say that Auden, who was open about it, was gay, though I haven’t run across anything where he justifies his sexual orientation.

There is much good material here:  his rejection of the notion that liturgical worship is undemocratic; his defense of archaic language; his point that the liturgy is supposed to connect us with the past and with the dead, his exhortation “by the bowels of Christ.”

http://greesons.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a679bde1970b0120a85249c2970b-800wi

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • #4 Kitty

    I think he borrows his “bowels of Christ” from Oliver Cromwell’s famous quote: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

  • #4 Kitty

    I think he borrows his “bowels of Christ” from Oliver Cromwell’s famous quote: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

  • Daniel Gorman

    W.H. Auden: “I implore you by the bowels of Christ to stick to Cranmer and King James.”

    Yes, English speaking Christians should be using Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer and the 1611 King James bible exclusively. These books are still widely read by Christians and they are still used in the liturgies of many Anglican and Lutheran churches.

  • Daniel Gorman

    W.H. Auden: “I implore you by the bowels of Christ to stick to Cranmer and King James.”

    Yes, English speaking Christians should be using Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer and the 1611 King James bible exclusively. These books are still widely read by Christians and they are still used in the liturgies of many Anglican and Lutheran churches.

  • Dan Kempin

    You missed one important facet that I think carries through very strongly to the present day: formality vs. informality. I think this is still a hidden factor often left undiscussed.

    First, he [Auden] acknowledges that formality is being lost to the culture:

    ” . . . when people still had an instinctive feeling for the formal and the ceremonious which is essential in liturgical language. This feeling has been, alas, as we all know, almost totally lost. ”

    This trend, far from being reversed, has advanced mightily.

    Second, he acknowledges the importance of connecting to the INformality of the culture through preaching:

    “Preaching, of course, is another matter: there the language must be contemporary.”

    So I suppose we could ask, for our own benefit but with Auden as the starting point, what is the role of formality and informality in public worship? Where must we communicate in the language and customs of the culture, and where ought we teach a different language and culture?

  • Dan Kempin

    You missed one important facet that I think carries through very strongly to the present day: formality vs. informality. I think this is still a hidden factor often left undiscussed.

    First, he [Auden] acknowledges that formality is being lost to the culture:

    ” . . . when people still had an instinctive feeling for the formal and the ceremonious which is essential in liturgical language. This feeling has been, alas, as we all know, almost totally lost. ”

    This trend, far from being reversed, has advanced mightily.

    Second, he acknowledges the importance of connecting to the INformality of the culture through preaching:

    “Preaching, of course, is another matter: there the language must be contemporary.”

    So I suppose we could ask, for our own benefit but with Auden as the starting point, what is the role of formality and informality in public worship? Where must we communicate in the language and customs of the culture, and where ought we teach a different language and culture?

  • timothy

    @Dan – perhaps ‘informality’ lacks ‘relevancy’? I’m comfortable on my sofa… But that won’t get me anywhere beyond TV and potato chips. One needs to understand that there is a process of inculturation when one becomes initiated in the faith: from baptism until death. Faith and practice do not conform to us, we conform ourselves to it, becoming part of the body of Christ.

  • timothy

    @Dan – perhaps ‘informality’ lacks ‘relevancy’? I’m comfortable on my sofa… But that won’t get me anywhere beyond TV and potato chips. One needs to understand that there is a process of inculturation when one becomes initiated in the faith: from baptism until death. Faith and practice do not conform to us, we conform ourselves to it, becoming part of the body of Christ.

  • SKPeterson

    I think it has something to do with reverence. With reverence comes a more formal liturgical structure. In our hyperdemocratic modern society we crave informality – insistence on formality strikes the modern as an exclusionary act designed to separate man from God. On the other hand, their opposites point to the relationship between formality and reverence – in which the formality is designed to exclude the World so that God and Church may be more clearly connected.

  • SKPeterson

    I think it has something to do with reverence. With reverence comes a more formal liturgical structure. In our hyperdemocratic modern society we crave informality – insistence on formality strikes the modern as an exclusionary act designed to separate man from God. On the other hand, their opposites point to the relationship between formality and reverence – in which the formality is designed to exclude the World so that God and Church may be more clearly connected.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Question: which version of the King James should be used? The KJV has been altered more than once in its history, and significantly at times.

    I’m engaged in discussion with some who come across as KJV-only people, and it’s almost humorous to see what great lengths they will go to in order to defend their position, even after pointing out to them instances in which the KJV’s rendering of a particular verse or passage is not in harmony with the original Hebrew or Greek.

    An example of this is in Daniel chapter three, in which Nebuchadnezzer makes reference to the fourth person in the fiery furnace. The KJV translates this as “the Son of God,” but that is not the best translation of the passage; it would be better translated “a son of the gods,” and more modern versions have done just that.

    The KJV is beautiful, but it is far from being the best and most perfect biblical translation. All translations have their foibles and weak points, and the KJV is no exception.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Question: which version of the King James should be used? The KJV has been altered more than once in its history, and significantly at times.

    I’m engaged in discussion with some who come across as KJV-only people, and it’s almost humorous to see what great lengths they will go to in order to defend their position, even after pointing out to them instances in which the KJV’s rendering of a particular verse or passage is not in harmony with the original Hebrew or Greek.

    An example of this is in Daniel chapter three, in which Nebuchadnezzer makes reference to the fourth person in the fiery furnace. The KJV translates this as “the Son of God,” but that is not the best translation of the passage; it would be better translated “a son of the gods,” and more modern versions have done just that.

    The KJV is beautiful, but it is far from being the best and most perfect biblical translation. All translations have their foibles and weak points, and the KJV is no exception.

  • SKPeterson

    Here’s an alternate take. Also perhaps relevant to the discussion from yesterday on form v. content.

    http://m.relevantmagazine.com/god/worship/features/29251-why-worship-should-be-risky

  • SKPeterson

    Here’s an alternate take. Also perhaps relevant to the discussion from yesterday on form v. content.

    http://m.relevantmagazine.com/god/worship/features/29251-why-worship-should-be-risky

  • Dan Kempin

    Timothy, #4,

    In order to teach someone a new language, you first have to speak the language they understand.

  • Dan Kempin

    Timothy, #4,

    In order to teach someone a new language, you first have to speak the language they understand.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Sk @ 7,
    That article has me “cheerfully suspicious” if that makes sense.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Sk @ 7,
    That article has me “cheerfully suspicious” if that makes sense.

  • Fws

    I have another trend that seems obvious and maybe one of you here can help me relate it to this post.

    the persons who seem to be the most anti-ritualistic seem to be quite the radical opposite when it is about commemorating their own wedding, aniversaries, graduations funerals, etc. they follow the most absurd and arcane traditions . They buy books. They seek out advice columns. And they fight over such silliness. Family relations are ruined over such stuff.

    Further, no one questions the protocols such as robes, ordering people to stand when a judge enters a courtroom and such.

    And societally we all seem to crave royalty rather than a president. We like to see state dinners, custom china, protocols followed. The Reagans were advised that it was proper protocol to bow and curtsy in deference to the brittish monarch. so they didnt question. They did it.

    And we collectively like symbolism. Obama now always wears a flag pin on his lapel and is careful to where he puts his hands when the national anthem and pledge of allegiance are said. And who does this matter to? Probably to socially conservative penticostals, evangelicals and baptists who have long ago ditched such stuff in worship. Or have they?

    My point is that the very christians who are ditching formality and protocol in worship seem to rather insist on the opposite everywhere else!

  • Fws

    I have another trend that seems obvious and maybe one of you here can help me relate it to this post.

    the persons who seem to be the most anti-ritualistic seem to be quite the radical opposite when it is about commemorating their own wedding, aniversaries, graduations funerals, etc. they follow the most absurd and arcane traditions . They buy books. They seek out advice columns. And they fight over such silliness. Family relations are ruined over such stuff.

    Further, no one questions the protocols such as robes, ordering people to stand when a judge enters a courtroom and such.

    And societally we all seem to crave royalty rather than a president. We like to see state dinners, custom china, protocols followed. The Reagans were advised that it was proper protocol to bow and curtsy in deference to the brittish monarch. so they didnt question. They did it.

    And we collectively like symbolism. Obama now always wears a flag pin on his lapel and is careful to where he puts his hands when the national anthem and pledge of allegiance are said. And who does this matter to? Probably to socially conservative penticostals, evangelicals and baptists who have long ago ditched such stuff in worship. Or have they?

    My point is that the very christians who are ditching formality and protocol in worship seem to rather insist on the opposite everywhere else!

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    This letter reminded me of another quote by C. S. Lewis on the subject of liturgy and it is well worth reading again:

    “There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.

    I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.
    To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure.

    Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it “works” best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

    But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was “for what does it serve?” “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”

    A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

    Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. You give me no chance to acquire the trained habit—habito dell’arte.”

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    This letter reminded me of another quote by C. S. Lewis on the subject of liturgy and it is well worth reading again:

    “There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.

    I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.
    To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure.

    Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it “works” best—when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

    But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was “for what does it serve?” “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”

    A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

    Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. You give me no chance to acquire the trained habit—habito dell’arte.”

  • Nate

    Instead of finding the origins of contemporary Christian music in the liturgical reforms following Vatican II, isn’t it more likely that it arose from the form and idiom of the revival meeting?

  • Nate

    Instead of finding the origins of contemporary Christian music in the liturgical reforms following Vatican II, isn’t it more likely that it arose from the form and idiom of the revival meeting?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Yes, Nate, I would say that the revivals shaped Protestant worship in general, making them less liturgical than they were earlier. But even revivals were more liturgical, in the sense of an organized, structured, and unified sequence (Finney developed the structure to move people to make a “decision”) than today’s contemporary worship services. That is to say, what is now the “traditional” service in Baptist, Pentecostal, or other evangelical churches (which are certainly not liturgical by Lutheran standards) does indeed reflect the revivals. The contemporary services, though, do much more with pop culture, informality, etc.

    I do like SKPeterson’s link, which is to a discussion by a contemporary Christian music group on why they made a “concept” album, as opposed to the usual set of independent “singles”:

    “It would be naive to think our liturgy has not been affected by today’s culture of pop music singles. Our church services can become disconnected from a consistent story. Planning the worship service often becomes about finding the best four or five worship singles that will keep people engaged, and then a sermon is given that is separate from anything done in the service up to that point. It’s all about the hits.

    I don’t think most Christians today give much thought to the overarching stories that form not only what we claim to believe but how we live in the world. So, we wanted to try to be more intentional about the larger context of the individual songs. We wanted to move away from the more typical pop Christian method of trying to create the best short, inspirational sound bytes we could, and instead try to create an experience that immersed the listener into a cohesive narrative of some kind. ”

    Immersing the [worshipper] in a coherent narrative–that’s what the traditional liturgy does! (By the way, we also see something that I have found endemic in evangelical services: “Worship” as a synonym for “singing.” As in, “we’ll start with a time of worship, and then we’ll read the Bible, have prayer, and hear a sermon.”

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Yes, Nate, I would say that the revivals shaped Protestant worship in general, making them less liturgical than they were earlier. But even revivals were more liturgical, in the sense of an organized, structured, and unified sequence (Finney developed the structure to move people to make a “decision”) than today’s contemporary worship services. That is to say, what is now the “traditional” service in Baptist, Pentecostal, or other evangelical churches (which are certainly not liturgical by Lutheran standards) does indeed reflect the revivals. The contemporary services, though, do much more with pop culture, informality, etc.

    I do like SKPeterson’s link, which is to a discussion by a contemporary Christian music group on why they made a “concept” album, as opposed to the usual set of independent “singles”:

    “It would be naive to think our liturgy has not been affected by today’s culture of pop music singles. Our church services can become disconnected from a consistent story. Planning the worship service often becomes about finding the best four or five worship singles that will keep people engaged, and then a sermon is given that is separate from anything done in the service up to that point. It’s all about the hits.

    I don’t think most Christians today give much thought to the overarching stories that form not only what we claim to believe but how we live in the world. So, we wanted to try to be more intentional about the larger context of the individual songs. We wanted to move away from the more typical pop Christian method of trying to create the best short, inspirational sound bytes we could, and instead try to create an experience that immersed the listener into a cohesive narrative of some kind. ”

    Immersing the [worshipper] in a coherent narrative–that’s what the traditional liturgy does! (By the way, we also see something that I have found endemic in evangelical services: “Worship” as a synonym for “singing.” As in, “we’ll start with a time of worship, and then we’ll read the Bible, have prayer, and hear a sermon.”

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    SKPeterson@5 As much as we “crave informality”, something stirs within in reverence when things are done with great formality: see the military and this article from Touchstone, “RITES & WRONGS OF PASSAGE: An Episcopal Priest on Casual Ministers & Reverent Marines,
    http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=19-09-020-v

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    SKPeterson@5 As much as we “crave informality”, something stirs within in reverence when things are done with great formality: see the military and this article from Touchstone, “RITES & WRONGS OF PASSAGE: An Episcopal Priest on Casual Ministers & Reverent Marines,
    http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=19-09-020-v

  • SKPeterson

    Rev. Schroeder @ 14 – A very nice article, thanks for the link. I believe it provides a good example of the tension that exists between formal and informal; our stated preferences for the “intimacy” and experience of informality, contrasted with our fascination with formal ritual, especially when that ritual is done well and taken seriously by the one(s) doing the ritual. I particularly liked the contrast between formality/ritual and haste. Ritual takes time, because in many ways it is timeless. Permanent. Our modern culture disdains permanence, timelessness and is drawn instead to a restless search for new experiences. This has carried over into the life and liturgy of the Church.

  • SKPeterson

    Rev. Schroeder @ 14 – A very nice article, thanks for the link. I believe it provides a good example of the tension that exists between formal and informal; our stated preferences for the “intimacy” and experience of informality, contrasted with our fascination with formal ritual, especially when that ritual is done well and taken seriously by the one(s) doing the ritual. I particularly liked the contrast between formality/ritual and haste. Ritual takes time, because in many ways it is timeless. Permanent. Our modern culture disdains permanence, timelessness and is drawn instead to a restless search for new experiences. This has carried over into the life and liturgy of the Church.

  • Grace

    Kitty @ 1

    “I think he borrows his “bowels of Christ” from Oliver Cromwell’s famous quote: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

    Kitty, this comes straight from the Word of God. See verse 8. Paul made mention of this first, most certainly it was not Cromwell.

    4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

    5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

    6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

    7
    Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

    8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

    9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

    10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

    11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

    12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

    13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; Philippians 1

  • Grace

    Kitty @ 1

    “I think he borrows his “bowels of Christ” from Oliver Cromwell’s famous quote: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

    Kitty, this comes straight from the Word of God. See verse 8. Paul made mention of this first, most certainly it was not Cromwell.

    4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

    5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

    6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

    7
    Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

    8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

    9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

    10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

    11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

    12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

    13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; Philippians 1

  • Christian Kopff

    Auden, Dr. Veith and the respondents make good points. The old Anglican Prayer Book was beautiful and meaningful and so was TLH drawn from it. The folks who monkeyed with our liturgy eliminated “the quick and the dead,” on which Auden’s comment is quite just, but wanted to re-introduce “Catholic church,” which is much more confusing for contemporary Christians. The KJV is also beautiful and does not have to be perfect. The few KJV-only Christians, who believe the translation is inerrant, are irrelevant to the liturgical use of the KJV. Sermons can clear up problems. When Christians want beauty and solace, they want the KJV’s 23rd Psalm, where Coverdale’s mis- or over-translation makes the poetry more beautiful and meaningful. Most of the KJV is more Lutheran than Anglican. Some 80% of the KJV comes from Tyndale and Coverdale, who were Lutherans. We should celebrate Tyndale’s Todestag, who was a true doctor and martyr. The ELCA does, but the LCMS does not.

  • Christian Kopff

    Auden, Dr. Veith and the respondents make good points. The old Anglican Prayer Book was beautiful and meaningful and so was TLH drawn from it. The folks who monkeyed with our liturgy eliminated “the quick and the dead,” on which Auden’s comment is quite just, but wanted to re-introduce “Catholic church,” which is much more confusing for contemporary Christians. The KJV is also beautiful and does not have to be perfect. The few KJV-only Christians, who believe the translation is inerrant, are irrelevant to the liturgical use of the KJV. Sermons can clear up problems. When Christians want beauty and solace, they want the KJV’s 23rd Psalm, where Coverdale’s mis- or over-translation makes the poetry more beautiful and meaningful. Most of the KJV is more Lutheran than Anglican. Some 80% of the KJV comes from Tyndale and Coverdale, who were Lutherans. We should celebrate Tyndale’s Todestag, who was a true doctor and martyr. The ELCA does, but the LCMS does not.

  • Daniel Gorman

    In 1549, the Latin rites of the Anglican Church were necessarily changed to the language of English speaking people and to eliminate the false teachings of the Romanists. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer has been changed many times, mostly to accommodate various political factions (e.g., Calvinists, Romanists, Liberals, etc.). None of the revisions can match the quality, orthodoxy, and majesty of the original version.

    In 1888, the German language rites of the American Lutheran Church were necessarily changed to the language of the English speaking American people. In keeping with her confession, the American Lutheran Church chose the 1549 Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church to be the basis of her liturgy. The 1888 Common Services made only necessary changes to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer (e.g., language update, doctrinal corrections, musical accompaniment, etc.).

    “. . .we say that such ecclesiastical rites are to be observed as can be observed without sin, and are of profit in the Church for tranquillity and good order” Apology to Augsburg Confession

  • Daniel Gorman

    In 1549, the Latin rites of the Anglican Church were necessarily changed to the language of English speaking people and to eliminate the false teachings of the Romanists. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer has been changed many times, mostly to accommodate various political factions (e.g., Calvinists, Romanists, Liberals, etc.). None of the revisions can match the quality, orthodoxy, and majesty of the original version.

    In 1888, the German language rites of the American Lutheran Church were necessarily changed to the language of the English speaking American people. In keeping with her confession, the American Lutheran Church chose the 1549 Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church to be the basis of her liturgy. The 1888 Common Services made only necessary changes to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer (e.g., language update, doctrinal corrections, musical accompaniment, etc.).

    “. . .we say that such ecclesiastical rites are to be observed as can be observed without sin, and are of profit in the Church for tranquillity and good order” Apology to Augsburg Confession

  • Eddie Kotynski

    A colleague of mine sent me this link. I would not have commented here, except that he felt that I should. So, here goes.

    Auden doesn’t argue in his letter against content change, but formal change. He seems to say that connection with the past is due to language (form) rather than theology (content). I know others deplore the theological change, but it is unsurprising to me that someone who is both a poet and an actively homosexual person (http://www.nndb.com/people/037/000031941/) would connect more to the beauty of “old language” than to ancient and orthodox theology; I suspect he wanted the romantic feeling of connection to the past more than a true connection of thought and substance. [I realize that this is an oversimplification of Auden, but he seems more philisophical than theological in his faith (i.e. interested in wrestling with the ultimate questions rather than being obedient to the ultimate). ] I would agree, though, that form is important to bringing a sense of reverence.

    What liturgy and written prayers do for me is move me beyond my own repetitious and narrow thoughts and prayers to the variegated and deep truths of our Christian faith – past and present (in that, the form of language does aid in reverence). Liturgy and liturgical prayer broadens my horizons synchronically as well as diachronically. That, the fact that I grew up with the revised prayer book of 1979 (which to me is actually beautiful and formal in its language), and that I have not seen any significant theological deviance where others have between the 1979 and 1928 prayer books makes it easy for me to enjoy the 1979 prayer book and difficult to enjoy the 1928 liturgy! To me the 1928 is actually more frustrating and difficult because, first of all, it is not familiar and, secondly, it seems to contain a lot of unnecessary repetition and superfluous verbiage (similar complaints have been made about the writing of people like Jonathan Edwards and his generation). =) Of course that may be because I am somewhat of a minimalist. If my kids ask a question more than once that I have given an answer to, it is frustrating. My writing style tends to be terse and compact as well. So who knows.

    For me as a linguist, though, it seems that there needs to be a discussion as to how much a language has to change before a prayer book or bible must be updated. Even to the well-read Christian, the Bible and liturgy may seem to mean what it does not mean because of the semantic shift in the meaning of a word: charity, gay, man, and hell. Those last four are examples of words that have had a shift in meaning – sometimes significantly so. Some would argue that the church have two translations: a liturgical translation for in the walls and a contemporary translation for outside. Yet I wonder why a modern liturgical translation isn’t possible for both sets of needs. Whatever the case, the Christian youth as well as new believers (as Auden mentions) can and must be instructed and informed regarding the meanings of words [and the meaning of the faith].

  • Eddie Kotynski

    A colleague of mine sent me this link. I would not have commented here, except that he felt that I should. So, here goes.

    Auden doesn’t argue in his letter against content change, but formal change. He seems to say that connection with the past is due to language (form) rather than theology (content). I know others deplore the theological change, but it is unsurprising to me that someone who is both a poet and an actively homosexual person (http://www.nndb.com/people/037/000031941/) would connect more to the beauty of “old language” than to ancient and orthodox theology; I suspect he wanted the romantic feeling of connection to the past more than a true connection of thought and substance. [I realize that this is an oversimplification of Auden, but he seems more philisophical than theological in his faith (i.e. interested in wrestling with the ultimate questions rather than being obedient to the ultimate). ] I would agree, though, that form is important to bringing a sense of reverence.

    What liturgy and written prayers do for me is move me beyond my own repetitious and narrow thoughts and prayers to the variegated and deep truths of our Christian faith – past and present (in that, the form of language does aid in reverence). Liturgy and liturgical prayer broadens my horizons synchronically as well as diachronically. That, the fact that I grew up with the revised prayer book of 1979 (which to me is actually beautiful and formal in its language), and that I have not seen any significant theological deviance where others have between the 1979 and 1928 prayer books makes it easy for me to enjoy the 1979 prayer book and difficult to enjoy the 1928 liturgy! To me the 1928 is actually more frustrating and difficult because, first of all, it is not familiar and, secondly, it seems to contain a lot of unnecessary repetition and superfluous verbiage (similar complaints have been made about the writing of people like Jonathan Edwards and his generation). =) Of course that may be because I am somewhat of a minimalist. If my kids ask a question more than once that I have given an answer to, it is frustrating. My writing style tends to be terse and compact as well. So who knows.

    For me as a linguist, though, it seems that there needs to be a discussion as to how much a language has to change before a prayer book or bible must be updated. Even to the well-read Christian, the Bible and liturgy may seem to mean what it does not mean because of the semantic shift in the meaning of a word: charity, gay, man, and hell. Those last four are examples of words that have had a shift in meaning – sometimes significantly so. Some would argue that the church have two translations: a liturgical translation for in the walls and a contemporary translation for outside. Yet I wonder why a modern liturgical translation isn’t possible for both sets of needs. Whatever the case, the Christian youth as well as new believers (as Auden mentions) can and must be instructed and informed regarding the meanings of words [and the meaning of the faith].

  • fws

    eddie @ 19

    Auden doesn’t argue in his letter against content change, but formal change. He seems to say that connection with the past is due to language (form) rather than theology (content).

    Where in auden’s letter do you see that he makes this distinction eddie? What text in the letter says that to you?

    <blockquote. but it is unsurprising to me that someone who is both a poet and an actively homosexual person (http://www.nndb.com/people/037/000031941/) would connect more to the beauty of “old language” than to ancient and orthodox theology

    Eddie, how, from this text, would I be proven wrong, if I assumed that Auden was concerned with preserving both , along with Dr Veith who presented this to us?

    What does Auden’s being gay have to do with any of this at all?

  • fws

    eddie @ 19

    Auden doesn’t argue in his letter against content change, but formal change. He seems to say that connection with the past is due to language (form) rather than theology (content).

    Where in auden’s letter do you see that he makes this distinction eddie? What text in the letter says that to you?

    <blockquote. but it is unsurprising to me that someone who is both a poet and an actively homosexual person (http://www.nndb.com/people/037/000031941/) would connect more to the beauty of “old language” than to ancient and orthodox theology

    Eddie, how, from this text, would I be proven wrong, if I assumed that Auden was concerned with preserving both , along with Dr Veith who presented this to us?

    What does Auden’s being gay have to do with any of this at all?

  • Grace

    Eddie,

    “Even to the well-read Christian, the Bible and liturgy may seem to mean what it does not mean because of the semantic shift in the meaning of a word: charity, gay, man, and hell. Those last four are examples of words that have had a shift in meaning – sometimes significantly so. “

    Eddie, you bring up a very imortant point, one that is often overlooked. The words have been distorted to mean something different, or more correctly the opposite of the true, original definition.

    I’m glad you were inspired to write on this blog, giving us all something to ponder. Please continue to post.

  • Grace

    Eddie,

    “Even to the well-read Christian, the Bible and liturgy may seem to mean what it does not mean because of the semantic shift in the meaning of a word: charity, gay, man, and hell. Those last four are examples of words that have had a shift in meaning – sometimes significantly so. “

    Eddie, you bring up a very imortant point, one that is often overlooked. The words have been distorted to mean something different, or more correctly the opposite of the true, original definition.

    I’m glad you were inspired to write on this blog, giving us all something to ponder. Please continue to post.

  • fws

    grace @21

    the word “aweful” meant “something that fills one with awe” only about 100 years ago. Go read Chaucer Grace. Chaucer writes in english. Earlier english. You don’t speak that way. Nor do you refer to anyone here as thou or thee do you?

    Why not?

    The meaning of words and also how they are used changes over time. This is perhaps more the rule than the exception.

    For you to say that this is, necessarily , “distortion”, or that the earlier meanings are “true” is not necessarily true Grace.

  • fws

    grace @21

    the word “aweful” meant “something that fills one with awe” only about 100 years ago. Go read Chaucer Grace. Chaucer writes in english. Earlier english. You don’t speak that way. Nor do you refer to anyone here as thou or thee do you?

    Why not?

    The meaning of words and also how they are used changes over time. This is perhaps more the rule than the exception.

    For you to say that this is, necessarily , “distortion”, or that the earlier meanings are “true” is not necessarily true Grace.

  • Grace

    fws,

    We disagree, as so often is the case.

  • Grace

    fws,

    We disagree, as so often is the case.

  • fws

    grace @ 23

    thou art entitled to thyown opinions.
    thou art not entitled to thine own facts.
    thy facts are “facts”.

    the meaning of aweful 100 years ago is no more true or false or distorted or undistorted than the meaning of the word today. fact.

    Your own language is different than that in the kjv. fact.

    your use of words is no less true and no more distorted than what you find in the the kjv. fact.

    you are free to say you and your rather than mine thine thou and thee. no foul . no error. no distortion. no true-er.

  • fws

    grace @ 23

    thou art entitled to thyown opinions.
    thou art not entitled to thine own facts.
    thy facts are “facts”.

    the meaning of aweful 100 years ago is no more true or false or distorted or undistorted than the meaning of the word today. fact.

    Your own language is different than that in the kjv. fact.

    your use of words is no less true and no more distorted than what you find in the the kjv. fact.

    you are free to say you and your rather than mine thine thou and thee. no foul . no error. no distortion. no true-er.

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