Saturday, May 9

So What About Liturgy?


Large parts of the Church today are effected by the anti-liturgical movement which seems to date back about five hundred years ago. The main fruit of that vine seems to have been that more and more parts of the Christian Faith have been labeled as "extraneous" or "non-essential," often with the cynical eye of a 1930's SS officer looking for "useless eaters." As the author of this movement1 left behind a wide path of bloodshed and upheaval, and apparently no testimony of ever having surrendered to the Prince of Peace, we do have a fair reason to re-examine his legacy.

Liturgy, of course, merely means "work of the people," and is no more from the start but a way to involve the congregation in worship. But, first, it is said that Liturgy is "of man," or even "Catholic" in origin, and so not to be tolerated. Leaving the latter charge for later, we must ask how repeated prayers and creeds are more peculiarly "human" than unplanned prayers, or sermons, hymns, or church architecture. For that matter, what makes humanity or a human response to God bad, when it was to redeem humanity that Christ died? Second, We hear that Liturgy is "peripheral:" that preaching of the Word is what counts. Yes, the proclamation of the Word of God, the Gospel of Christ, is the key focus. For just that reason we have a liturgy which continues that proclamation from the early days of the Church. When we lose the Liturgy or, even worse, re-write it to suit modern agendas, the Church loses her memory
of her own past and becomes a prisoner of the immediate present, much like an amnesiac or an Alzheimer's victim. Such a picture put far too great a strain on the pastors to not only guide the Church into the future but to continually remind her that she does, in fact, exist in the present, having at least some sense of having been around earlier than last week.

Speaking, now, of catholicity: It is only by regaining her past, her memory, that the Church can come to realise that if she is Christian, then she is Christian together with all others who honestly love her Lord. Political movements within her history, the growth and concomitant corruption of Roman influence in the West, the various Reformation and counter-revival movements, are features in the landscape, but the road through it all is God's unfailing love for His saints. This is the message that defines the Church as one body, that makes and keeps her truly catholic.

4 comments:

  1. The new blog header is excellent.

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  2. Thanks, Russ! Any thoughts on the article?

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  3. 'Leaving the latter charge for later, we must ask how repeated prayers and creeds are more peculiarly "human" than unplanned prayers, or sermons, hymns, or church architecture.'

    We have liturgy in our Presbyterian church and along with creeds I view them as potential useful teaching tools, although I have spent my time memorizing and reviewing Scripture at the expense of these other tools within my limited time, as you know I have been busy over the years with four degrees and recently blogging.

    Anyway, I have a new one thekingpin68.

    I hope work and study is going very well, Robert.

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  4. Thanks, Russ,

    And thanks for bringing out the one part I did the worst in presenting in this article. The heart of the Liturgy, and of the Church which formed it, is not religious education or indoctrination, even in the best sense, but worship. Understanding this or that theory of the Atonement, or being able to defend plenary inspiration, is all good and useful, though a great emphasis on these can bring us to see Christian Growth as a matter of rhetorical training. Remember that Apollos was an accomplished rhetorician until Ananias and Sapphira "instructed him more perfectly." The goal of the Liturgy is worship, and the goal of worship is being transformed into the image and likeness of Him Who has bought us with His blood and called us to be kings and prophets and priests in this world into which He has called us. To borrow a word, our sanctifusion!

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So what's your take?