Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mark Buchanan on Liturgy

(From the Introduction to The Rest of God:  Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath)

Liturgy.  I chose that word with care.

I was converted within a Low Church tradition, where the building's walls are stark, the music simple, the prayers clumsy and direct, made up as you pray them.  I have only ever belonged to that tradition.  And so early on I picked up the tradition's historic suspicion of High Church, where God is approached through a sometimes elaborate system of symbol and ritual--robes and candles and prayer books and lectionaries--and almost everything is scripted.

That scripting is liturgy.

Yet over time I began to realize that the Low Church is just as bound by liturgy as any church, and maybe more so because we think we're not.  The Low Church enshrines--makes a liturgy of--austerity, spontaneity, informality.  And we have our unwritten but nonetheless rigorously observed codes and protocols.  We love our traditions, even our rigmarole, every bit as much as the next guy, only ours is earthy, rustic, folksy.

So I changed my mind about liturgy.  It certainly can become dull and rote, but so can anything--water polo, rose gardening, kite flying, even lovemaking.  Even fly-fishing.  Just as often, though, maybe more so, liturgy can enrich these things.  At its best, liturgy comprises the gestures by which we honor transcendent reality.  It helps us give concrete expression to deepest convictions.  It gives us choreography for things unseen and allows us to brush heaven among the shades of earth.

1 comment:

Papa Bear said...

This has definitely been my experience.