quod pro nobis traditum est

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Comment: another angle on the liturgy

This is a general comment intended to encourage appreciation of the liturgy for what it is.

It is easy for Lutherans to criticize the traditional Roman liturgy and/or the Orthodox liturgy. The main reason for this being, of course, that they are not Lutheran. Yet neither the traditional Roman liturgy nor the Orthodox liturgy even attempt to follow whatever the Lutheran liturgy is. Should they? I think not. If anything, we can learn some things from the historic liturgy even when it means going against the trends. Unfortunately, there are many factors involved in this learning that makes such learning difficult and it is certainly not for everyone. However, two factors in the liturgy may be recognized and upheld: continuity and organic form. We can do better to uphold any continuity with the historic liturgy than boast in experiments. Also, there is an organic form in the liturgy that even Lutherans recognize in the liturgies in the hymnal. There is liturgy and the parts of the liturgy work together and support each other in forming a greater whole. This is why, among Lutherans, the hymnal is preferred to ongoing miscellaneous and diverse changes. When there is a grasp of continuity and organic form, one can recognize and appreciate, also in the Lutheran hymnal, parts of the liturgy that are both catholic and orthodox.

Recently, I drove down a street where two church signs displayed their worship schedule. One church, evangelical protestant, calls its services, "Blended" and "Modern." The other church, Lutheran, calls its services, "Contemporary" and "Traditional." Something is lost here with descriptive labels of worship such as these. Likely, most people do not pay close attention to such things. This is a plea to take time and give it some thought. If worship is meant to bring people in contact and communion with God these labels seem to say more about appealing to people's tastes. They describe forms of worship but the emphasis on worship itself is lost. The historic liturgy is helpful in providing a different view. Even though it may be bucking the trends, give me a church that uses the time-worn and more universal understanding of what worship is. Take, for example, "Liturgy," "Divine Liturgy," "Divine Worship," "Divine Service," "Holy Communion," "Eucharist" or "Mass." While such terminology is not a certain guarantee that what goes on inside the church has not been altered greatly, the terminology offers at least a promise in substance, some continuity, organic form, universality or catholicity, and a hint that the church is consciously serious about worship.