TLS Touchstones #9: lex orandi, lex credendi
The Latin phrase which serves as the title of my column this month (which is a little bit late to be the first one of the year— mea culpa!) originates with some of our fellow Christians who lived in the first few centuries of the New Testament Church. It means, roughly, “the law of praying is the law of believing.” At times it has been taken to mean too much and put into the service of some rather dubious theology. With that caveat made, however, I’d like to consider the truth contained in this phrase in connection with our chapel program here at Trinity Lutheran School.
Every day at TLS, God’s Word is heard, sung, and prayed by our students in chapel. The Bible is read, psalms and hymns are sung, and prayer is offered. These three things together make up the “daily office,” which is what the daily prayer services of the Church have been called from ancient times. “Office” comes from the Latin word officium, which means “duty.” Thus the “daily office” is a way of doing our Christian duty— but let us understand this aright! Yes, it is our duty to worship God, but we do not perform this duty out of fearfulness and servility, as though we were trying to appease God’s wrath or earn His favor; rather, it is a duty which is also a joy, one which we perform with thanksgiving for the blessings of both body and soul that God richly and daily provides us. “For all this,” the Catechism says, “it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”
And that’s precisely it: at Trinity the “law of praying”— that is, our practice of the daily office— forms our schoolchildren in the Christian faith— that is, in the “law” or “way” of believing. Believing what? God’s Word, which tells our students what God has done for them in creating them, redeeming them, and sanctifying them. The text of the “daily office” cannot do otherwise, because it is all God’s living and active Word, which never returns to Him void.
What better way to start the school day than to praise and thank the Author of all that we are about to learn throughout the rest of it? Every subject, every class, every topic, every lesson is illuminated by the light of the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ— indeed, only in the light of His splendor can any of these things be seen or known as other than vanity. “Yea doubtless,” writes St. Paul, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). God grant that it would be so with us as well.
And so it is that the “law of praying” commends “the law of believing” to us here at Trinity Lutheran School. We are very blessed to have chapel every day thanks to the generous and faithful service of our local Lutheran clergymen who are assisting Trinity during our pastoral vacancy. Please take the time to read a bit about each of them in the main newsletter feature this month, and please keep them in your prayers as they assist the school this year.
Your servant in Christ,
You can view and learn about this magnificent (and mysteriously anonymous) painting in greater detail during student pick-up or drop-off: just stop by the bulletin board outside Mrs. Brown’s office in the main school hallway. Mr. Matthew Carver, the same gentleman who designed our school seal, is the author of the English translation from the German.