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On Taking Liturgy Seriously

Sergius Bulgakov delivers an exhortation that most Christians probably need to hear, especially those of us in the West whose only experiences of culture and sociality, ecclesial or otherwise bear deep vestiges of artificiality and triviality. Too few of us even know how to think about our participation in gathered worship as an event actually occurring within the economy of God’s salvation of the world, whether we come from a high church background or not. Here is Bulgakov’s timely remark:

“Our liturgies are not theatrical productions, devoid of the power of reality and containing on an ideal remembrance. No! They are real events for us. In these events we are contemporaries of Christ’s earthly life, which enters into our very own life. Christ’s earthly life did not take place only for the small number of people who saw hum with fleshly eyes. It also takes place for all of Christ’s humankind in the church (‘blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed’ [John 20:29]).” (“The Holy Grail,” p. 50-51)

11 Comments

  1. bobby grow wrote:

    What about those of us who haven’t any semblance of liturgy, in our worship services?

    To be honest Halden, we attend our ‘community Bible church’ more out of duty than anything else . . . finding ‘high’ churches or ‘low’ churches that are consciously Christ-centred, and aware of the dynamic event of ‘being the Church of Christ’ is almost impossible to find. Any suggestions?

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 2:12 am | Permalink
  2. Ben George wrote:

    Bobby: Your local Catholic parish typically runs a food pantry, helps pay people’s rent, educates the children and adults, runs marriage counseling and gathers as a young old black white asian hispanic cold lukewarm on fire people to receive and become the Body of Christ every day. If you’re looking for more than that you are probably dreaming of something that does not now and has not ever existed and will not ever exist until the coming of our Lord in glory. “Why can’t these people be more like me?” is the root question here, and is also the source of the problem.

    Halden: I feel the urgency of Bulgakov’s quote, and particularly your observation of the artificiality of it, especially in the Western context. I teach many ages of catechism, and one thing that strikes me across all age groups, adults too, is the degree to which they are capable of compartmentalizing their lives into radically opposing philosophies, so that it seems almost as if many people are occupying the same body. Of this I am guilty as well, Christ help me.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 8:50 am | Permalink
  3. bobby grow wrote:

    Ben,

    no not really!

    The first problem is that I am not Roman Catholic. The Second problem with what you’ve apparently discerned, is that it is highly presumptuous. The third problem is that I didn’t ask ‘you’ for your feedback, but as you’ll note, my question was directed to Halden.

    Primarily the root problem, Ben, is that the Evangelical church, in many ways is in doctrinal shambles (not that she doesn’t have a rich heritage, but that many cultural concerns have crept in and is choking her out, so that the message and healthy ‘orthodoxy’ and thus ‘orthopraxy’ is being choked out), which Halden would know, and beyond that we live in the same region—so I was hoping that Halden might first off acknowledge me for once; and second off, have any suggestions of churches in the area that do a better job at being truly and historically ‘evangelical’ (not perfectly, of course, but who are at least trying).

    In other words, Ben, I really don’t or didn’t want to hear from you . . . thanks.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Bobby, sorry if I haven’t had responses for everything lately. There’s been a lot of comments to keep up with lately. It hasn’t been intentional by any means.

    As far as advice about churches, I don’t know if I can be much help. I know only bits and pieces about churches in the Portland area as I have spend the last 7 years involved with just one church exclusively, which we’ve talked about before. But if I think of anything I’ll let you know.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  5. bobby grow wrote:

    Thank you, Halden! I was starting to think you didn’t like me anymore ;-) ; not that I’ve left any brilliant comments or points, as of late, worthy of response.

    And I am aware of your ecclesial situation, but I know that you are in a place–Multnomah–that has more exposure to what’s going on out there (as far as churches), than I am currently privy to—given my current life situation.

    Yeah, if you hear of anything let me know . . . I would appreciate it!

    peace.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  6. Hill wrote:

    If you want to have a conversation with Halden at the exclusion of other people, email him. Don’t complain if other people respond to your comments on a public blog. Taking issue with something Ben said is fine and explaining the things with which you take issue and why is precisely the sort of things comments are for, but telling him not to respond is inappropriate.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  7. Ben George wrote:

    Bobby, I didn’t mean to offend. For every one of us who comment, there are ten who lurk quietly, perhaps they had your question as well.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  8. bobby grow wrote:

    Hill,

    you’re always the voice of reason and balance every blog needs ;-) . . . maybe if you’re not too busy Halden could put you on the payroll as his full-time moderator.

    Ben,

    sorry I’m a little defensive, for goodness sake it’s in my blood-line . . . I’m a ‘Fundy’ after all :-) .

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  9. Halden wrote:

    Ha! As if I could ever make money from this gig…

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  10. Hill wrote:

    I’m just saying… I get as pissed off as anyone from some of the comments that get posted here (especially ones I think are presumptuous), but I often learn more from them than the ones I agree with. It’s because this blog gets such a varied readership (of people who ultimately agree on very important basic things) that it is such a fruitful and active place. I realize Halden ultimately makes the rules here, but for totally selfish reasons associated with the generally high quality and fruitful nature of discussion here, I get defensive when it looks like people are being squelched. Characterizing your post as inappropriate was a poor choice of words. Posting a challenging question on a site frequented by a bunch of opinionated people is a good way to hear things one doesn’t want to hear; that’s is all I’m saying. God knows I could stand to be on a few more payrolls, though.

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  11. bobby grow wrote:

    Halden,

    . . . sure you could! You have such a dedicated readership, you charge a subscription fee in order to access your site . . . hey it’s the ‘capitalist’ in me . . . ;-)

    Hill,

    I’m really not afraid to hear things, if so I would’ve given up blogging quite awhile ago . . . instead, I get defensive when statements are made based upon presumption about, in this case, my motives.

    Oh yeah, if anyone should go on the payroll, I think it should be me—since it was my idea, and everything ;-) .

    peace out!

    Monday, September 29, 2008 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

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  1. In Light of the Gospel » Blog Archive » The World of Liturgy on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    [...] [HT: Halden] [...]

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