Sunday, March 5, 2017
Democracy and Liturgy. . .
Our democratic values should not abolish the place of language and ceremony born of kingship and courtliness -- no matter how these might transgress our politically correct esteem of democracy and egalitarianism. In fact we must read into the Scriptures our modern governmental ideals for what is there is a rather blunt and distinct perspective of a divine kingdom ruled not by common consent but by the gracious will and purpose of King, Jesus Christ. All our modern preference of participation and preference will fall away when, at the end of time, the glorious reign of Christ the King is revealed to the nations (not only to believers) and the elect of God will be raised to eternal life in a glorified flesh to dwell before Him in the glorious marriage supper of the Lamb in His kingdom without end. Those who reject Him and who insist upon being equals before Him and with Him till wail and gnash their teeth in the unending torment of eternal fire. The liturgy must reflect the whole truth of God and not merely the truth we find acceptable — His absolute monarchy, His paternal rule, His hierarchical court which are the very revelation of St. John in whose vision of unspeakable splendor we encounter the heavenly Jerusalem. In short, though it is our penchant to tinker with the liturgy, to make it accord with democratic notions of participation and preference, the liturgy is the first glimpse of the eternal -- an eternal which will not be shaped by consumer preference or by political ideals but by God's design and purpose. It is what it is and faith believes that it is good, right, salutary, and a blessed mystery — beyond our comprehension and imagination but yet anticipated within the Divine Service.
Democracy and egalitarianism cry out for fairness and equal opportunity -- the priest/pastor should not be the only voice, others should have their opportunity to serve (in the spotlight), male and female leadership roles should have primary importance in who does what, age and youth must be equally represented in leadership roles, and the horizontal dimension should be emphasized over the vertical in the liturgy. Let's face it. This is some of what we have heard since the liturgical reforms of post-Vatican II and those in Lutheran and other circles (inspired by Roman Catholic liturgical reform). Further, the pristine ideals of the early church were presumed to accord more with the democratic and egalitarian ideals of modernity and the kingly characteristics of the Divine Service were believed to have been accretions of later times that obscured the earlier blessed simplicity.
So if there are those who think that the present shape of liturgy is too clergy dominant, too regal, too heavenly, and too ceremonial, well, then there will be some who are sure to be disappointed when they encounter the grandeur of the heavenly liturgy in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb without end. For surely the pale and paltry earthly anticipation of this divine mystery will be replaced by a reality far beyond what we could possibly replicate on earth. Read the Revelation of St. John. Look at Sunday morning. There is nothing in the heavenly promise to justify the democratic and egalitarian novelties that have characterized a certain aspect of liturgical reform -- both in Rome and in Wittenberg.