Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Liturgy

As an Episcopalian, I am a member of a liturgical church. "Liturgy," or "work of the people", consists of the rituals we use in worship to bring others and ourselves closer to God. Liturgy, as the definition implies, is an interactive form of worship. Perhaps that is why I lean so much towards it. Liturgy involves most of the senses (all, if you include incense), and incorporates movement in the form of standing, sitting, and kneeling. We sing, pray silently and aloud, and respond verbally to prompts in the service.

In liturgical style, I prefer "High Church," or liturgy rich in vestments, sounds, sacred music, candles and incense. Some people refer to it as "smells and bells". I find that when done well, a High Church liturgy can bring me closest to experiencing the wonder and majesty of God. That's not to say that "Low Church", a simpler form of liturgy, or "Broad Church", which tries to blend aspects of High and Low Church, can't bring people closer to the divine. It's just that to me, anyway, it's like looking at the familial aspect of our relationship with God. That's important, but it seems that we have emphasized that familial relationship so much that God has become familiar, instead of the Creator of the Universe that deserves our awe and reverence, as well as our love. Be that as it may, High, Low or Broad, it's important that we care enough to do liturgy well. Otherwise it's just a bumbling, unworthy display instead of a fitting offering to God.

Does that mean we'll do it perfectly every time? Of course not! We're simply fallible humans who will bumble at times. But we have to put out the effort. Also, when we do slip up, it's best to simply stop, acknowledge the mistake briefly (if necessary) and then, move on.

Peter D. Robinson, a bishop in the United Episcopal Church (not to be confused with The Episcopal Church, to which I belong), say this about liturgy in his blog, "The Old High Churchman":
"I would also note that we should always celebrate the liturgy with dignity and reverence, preferring a modest service done well to an elaborate one done badly. Reverence is caught, not taught. If our services are slovenly, then we should not be surprised if the people do not value the liturgy as they should."

Have a most blessed Holy Week. May you experience Christ's Passion and Resurrection fully in this journey towards Easter.

1 comment:

Erlinda said...

Oh, BTW...this has nothing to do with any recent services at my church. Just felt a bit inspired after reading Bishop Robinson's blog entry, which is far more scholarly than mine. :)