Wednesday, May 06, 2009


So what does one do when faced with mounting evidence that the work done is not that factual...or helpful? The newspapers just print a retraction. I will go forward to say that my former post on the Hokey Pokey may not be all that accurate. I did try to have fun, and I shared what I had learned...albeit wrong. Guess it goes to show it helps to never stop learning...and may explain why the same sermon topic or title may never be the same again, even when faced with the same scripture or topic.

I would like to share with you Taylor Burton-Edwards' helpful thoughts...


I offer these words to you directly. I hope you may receive them in a spirit of brotherly concern for you, for your ministry, and for our church and its relationships with other churches.

Are you aware that your blog post on this from last October (which I happened to find this morning) could be interpreted by Roman Catholics and many other Christians as deeply offensive?

Legend of the Hokey Pokey

You might want to consult the wikipedia article on this song. It notes (with solid citations) the origins of the interpretation you offer as intentionally anti-Catholic, and it notes cited references from several other scholars and from the grandchildren of the author of the song both refuting this interpretation and offering the ones they know from the time the song was written.

You can read it here:

I'm not sure of your source, but whatever it was also did not understand how the Roman Mass worked-- then or now. My information here is not from wikipedia, but from many years of scholarly work on Christian ritual.

"Hoc est corpus enim" is nowhere near the beginning of the Latin mass. The priests would have been at the altar, facing it, long before they got to these words. It is part of the words of institution, which appear, as in our current UM ritual, closer to the middle of the Eucharistic prayer-- and actually, then (both when the song was written and in the pre-Vatican II liturgies) a bit closer to the end of it.

The first act of bowing at the Lord's Table is during the first part of the Sanctus-- which appears closer to the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, and well before the Words of Institution. Bowing after the consecration did also happen in some traditions (not all), but that bow would have been no more notable as the bow at the Sanctus. The bow at the Sanctus, by the way, may have been joined by all the people, not just the priest. So the order of these ritual actions appears a bit odd relative to the song.

To my knowledge there have never been any rubrics calling for the use of the left hand to bless anything. The right hand blesses the wine, as it does the bread, as it does the people. This is found in every rubric book, every liturgical text, and every example of church art including such acts of blessing (the earliest dating from the sixth century in Syria) that I know of.

The notion of "shaking the hand over the elements" would be considered blasphemous to Roman Catholics and other who follow the classic rubrics at the words of institution.  The instruction in the rubrics here was to make the sign of the cross over the bread and break it (again, pre-Vatican II-- in many post-Vat II liturgies, the fraction follows the epiclesis, which comes later, as in our ritual) and then over the wine, and then to touch each cup or flagon after the appropriate words. This is not an act of incoherent shaking-- but an act of clear signification of the importance of this moment-- Christ entering the bread and wine and blessing it.

I think I understand that you were trying to have some fun with this-- and to help make the actions of the communion ritual more memorable in a way. However, given these factors, your article may, for some,  be offering more offense than blessing.

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards



Post a Comment

<< Home