The Beauty of the Liturgy – Evangelical Catholic VIII
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day”
1 Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. 2 Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. 3 Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. 4 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, 5 “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” 6 He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them. 7 Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” John 12:1-8 (MSG)
“Evangelical Catholicism embraces this rediscovery of beauty as a primary category for understanding God and his ways and applies it to the Church’s liturgy. Its approach to church architecture, church decoration, liturgical music, liturgical vesture, and all the other tangibles of the Church’s liturgical life proceeds from the question, “Is this beautiful in such a way that it helps disclose the living God in Word and Sacrament?” In that respect, Evangelical Catholicism’s approach to liturgy is not somewhere “between” the approaches favored by liturgical traditionalists and liturgical progressives, but ahead of the curve of the now-tiresome Liturgy Wars.” (1)
As I continue my journey through the book Evangelcial Catholic – I came to the above quote regarding the Liturgy. Comes at an auspicious time, as I am about to start a Adult Bible Study on the Liturgy.
( I am started reading the book for two reasons – the first being a friend recommended it to help me understand where the Catholic Church is heading and secondly, because the Lutheran Churches were once know as the Evangelical Catholic Church )
As I think about the movement of the Liturgy (my study is called “The Dance of the Liturgy”) this concept of beauty is important – if not critical. It does what I’ve long contended – that in the battles of the owrship wars, the focus in not in the right place – and both extremes make the same error in what they point out is the problem. Let me illustrate. Let’s take church A – the are traditional (hymns, pipe organs, chausables, the pastor rapidly goes through the motions in a near monotone) but the organ is played too loud, the people can’t sing and they do not know what is behind the symbolism of the liturgy, the music, the sanctuary. Church B is contetemporary/progressive – (band which is made up of low level skilled musicians that don’t quite sync together, casually dressed pastor/priest) but again the music is too loud – there is no flow or theme to the service. Church C is like Church A – except people KNOW why they are doing what they are doing and why, the organ is used to facilitate worship, and the pastor reads, preaches and prays in a way that is more akin to a dialgoe and story), and Church D – the praise band – moved to the side – practiced and whether simple or complex play as one and focus is such that facilitates the singing of the people, the service is designed to instill the truth that God comes to them, brings them to life and guides their life in response.
Churches A & B are always held up as the examples of why the other form of worship isn’t “good and right and beneficial”. They distract people from why they are there, they give rise to complaints and dissatisfaction. They become the basis of the worship wars – the argument that is equivelant to saying the sanctuary is 1/4 full or 3/4 empty. And they completely take the discussion away from the purpose of the sanctuary – why it was dedicated. To be a place where
In C & D, I contend – there would be little discussion or nature of worship wars. The churches are focused on creating an atmosphere that is such that God is easily revealed through word and sacrament. It’s a complete package – the skills of all of those who facilitate worship. Where the musician and the pastor are not the focus – but everything blends in together in such a way that it is seamless – that God is the focus, His presence revealed, His love and mercy known and received.
Where the worship, the sermon, and the ‘execution” of them, the actual decor and atmosphere – whether simple or ornate, whether 20 people or 5000 – is “beautiful” because what it is supposed to be, the people of God gathered into His presence, receiving His gifts through (not of) word and sacrament, is what it is.
May all our churches become more and more beautiful, as we abound in His love.
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 71-72). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Need Hope? No Answers? Come Experience Jesus, Have Hope! (evangelical catholic VI) (justifiedandsinner.com)