Lutherans Confront the Church Triumphant
Fr. John Fenton, a catholic-minded Lutheran pastor, shared some thoughts on "Lutheran Hymns and Prayers to the Dead" instructive to his fellow Lutherans and all Protestants. The post concerns the hymns "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" and "Oh, How Blest Are Ye Whose Toils Are Ended":
"Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" is one of my favorite "Protestant" hymns; verse two is a close paraphrase of a refrain from the Orthodox Church's Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. (One of the comments also mentions "O Come All Ye Faithful," with its exhortation to "Sing all ye citizens in Heaven above.")
What's intriguing is found when I ask this question: "To whom are we speaking when we sing the words in these hymns?" For "Ye Watchers," the answer is that we are not addressing God at all. Rather, we are speaking to the angels (stanza 1); the Blessed Virgin Mary (stanza 2); the Old & New Testament saints (stanza 3); and then either the "friends" standing next to us or the "friends" who have preceded us in death (stanza 4). In either case, we're not speaking to any member of the Holy Trinity. Rather, in at least three if not four of the stanzas, we're speaking to "dead folks"--those who are alive in the Lord even though their years on earth have ended. And throughout the hymn, we are entreating or praying for them to reamain faithful in their prayers to the Holy Blessed Trinity. In "Oh, How Blest," we are likewise speaking to "dead folks"--in this case, those dear to us who have preceded us in death (i.e., the Faithful Departed) -- until we reach the final stanza.
Fr. John has since posted a sermon on the topic. Meanwhile, Cheryl (another Lutheran) has two posts on the topic on her blog. In addition to Fr. John having thoughts worth pondering, I post these two to note how many liturgical Westerners are finding the building blocks of Western Orthodoxy.