On his Extra Nos blog, LP Cruz has a post called “Same Same, but Different”. He is picking up on the posting of another Lutheran, one Steve Martin from the US, entitled “Too Religious?”. The question is: if Lutherans and Catholics both use the same or similar liturgical forms, doesn’t that mean that they are “the same”? Not so, counters LP Cruz, they are DIFFERENT because when Lutheran say the SAME things they MEAN different things from Catholics.
The problem with people observing Lutherans is that they hear the same words we speak and think we mean the same things as the RCs.
We sound and look the same as the RC but we do not mean the same things when we use the same words. We just look the same, but we are not the same.
We are not the same because we do not mean the same things when we use the words found in our liturgy. The words strike the Lutheran differently when they hit the Lutheran’s ears.
Well… From one perspective, he is most certainly right. Certainly Lutherans intend to do something quite different in their Eucharistic Liturgy than Catholics. After all, we intend to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which they certainly do not. But then, that really is made quite clear by the fact that they cut out the “sacrificial” bits of the liturgy, whereas we retain them in all their glory (the Traddies’ criticisms of the Novus Ordo notwithstanding).
However, there are great swathes of the Eucharistic Liturgy which have been completely retained by the Lutherans – and the Anglicans and even by those of other protestant traditions such as the Methodists (Uniting Church in Australia). The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei are unaltered. The shape of the Liturgy is unaltered. Many of the Collects and the Readings and the Propers share much in common.
Remember the old saying “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”? I know that a lot of people (Lutherans and Catholics) have tried to turn that around to say that it equally means “Lex Credendi, Lex Orandi”, ie. that it is equally true to say that the Rule of Faith establishes the Rule of Prayer as it is to say that the Rule of Prayer establishes the Rule of Faith, but the original saying upon which this dictum is based does not allow us to be so careless about the order. “Lex supplicandi legem statuat credendi” means that the rule of prayer is what establishes the rule of belief.
The upshot of this is that when Lutherans and Catholics really mean different things by the words they use in the liturgy, they generally make pretty sure that they use different words. When they use the same words and do the same things, it must be concluded – at least on the level of phenomenology (for all I know about that subject, which is not much) – that they mean the same thing by what they do and say.
So it is fairly natural that, when a Lutheran finally wakes up and smells the incense (as they say), he (or she) often realises that the very words he (or she) has been using all the way along have meant exactly what Catholics mean when they use the same words.
It is all downhill to the Tiber after that…