Monday, December 1, 2014

The primary carrier and guardian of the faith. . .

Since the liturgy, along with Sacred Scripture, is the primary carrier of the tradition that unites us to Christ, the loss of the theology of grace, the domestication of God, the paraphrasing that deliberately omitted nuances of understanding, the deliberate omission of biblical references in the liturgical text itself, etc. left the church for forty years without a way of worship that adequately expressed our faith.   --- Francis Cardinal George. . .

Scripture is not just with the liturgy.  The liturgy is sung and said Scripture.  While I might have phrased it slightly differently, the Cardinal has his finger on the key.  The Word and the liturgy are the twin poles that hold up the Church and each of us as Christians.  We are not merely sustained but kept in the true faith by the daily and weekly rehearsal of the same story of God's redemption and the mystery of our salvation which we hear and to which we respond within the vibrant liturgical tradition.

One of the most remarkable consequences of such a liturgical life is that we are literally saturated with Scripture within the lectionary and the Divine Service.  In contrast to many of our Protestant kin whose worship life is replete with words about God's Word, the liturgical tradition overwhelms us with the Word of God both spoken and sung -- a gift whose summit is the Word "incarnated" in the bread and cup of His testament so that we may eat it and drink it -- both symbolically and literally as the sign conveys that which it signifies.

Sadly, we who live within the liturgy and liturgical year so often shrug off this as mere man made structures and patterns.  We dismiss the very real and powerful presence of the Word of God that unfolds both within the liturgical drama of the Mass and the liturgical year of the lectionary.  It is often as if we have have been fed so often and so deeply of this rich and lavish food supplied by the Lord that we count it all as ordinary.  Often it requires a time of deep hunger and want for this in the Word and Sacrament of Christ before we realize what daily and richly God supplies us to keep us holy and blameless even to eternal life.

Further, we forget how important the liturgy is with the Word to guard us against the very loss of this faith to the great and manifold temptations of this mortal life, to the speculation of the mind and to the distractions of a heart consumed with lust and desire.  George is speaking of the effects of Vatican II upon the Roman Catholic Church.  What might be said long term effects of the envy of things evangelical and its abandonment of the liturgy and the lectionary in pursuit of a more modern and relevant form of Christianity?  Christ was surely speaking with painful honestly when He asked if there would be faith on earth when the Son of Man returned in His glory!


Janis Williams said...

People not raised in the historic Liturgy are very thankful when they find it. Going to meetings where maybe one or two verses are used as a springboard for the pastor's current soapbox chafes. The Law will kill eventually. How refreshing to find Lutherans (at least Confessional ones) are awash in Scripture spoken, sung, prayed! In short, the Gospel given and not taken away with bad Law preaching.

I like Craig Parton's metaphor: (Many) Lutherans are like children who have grown up in a three-flower michelin restaurant. They are so used to the wonderful cuisine, they think fast food, once discovered means a milkshake with the pate.

Try to make a point of paying attention to the words of a sung Collect. Listen to what you yourself are saying; it is NOT boring; it is the Word of God.

Stir up, oh Lord this sleepy saint to devour your Word!

chaplain7904 said...


Might I piggy back off your excellent and insightful labor, and take things a step farther. May I say that the liturgy IS the Word of God. And that the Word of God is liturgy. It was never used except as liturgy, nor should it be today. Scripture is given to be used IN the church, BY the church, FOR the church.

The church's liturgy is older, wiser, stronger and smarter than any person who thinks he can create a better carrier or superior guardian of the faith once delivered unto the saints.

For the Christian faith is not a notion housed within the confines of one's mind or heart. But it is God's people gathered together in Eucharistic worship.

Thanks again for this excellent piece.