Monday, March 8, 2010

Choice of Terms Can Be Revealing

At the New Liturgical Movement blog Jeffrey Tucker posted an article written by William Mahrt, which will be published in the Spring issue of Sacred Music. It is a well written argument, touching upon a number of liturgical issues, all relevant to the over all problem of how modern liturgical terms can signal an unfortunate shift in liturgical theology. And I highly recommend it to the reader.

But why bother with the intramural problems of the Roman Catholic communion? First, even if these problems were truly intramural, to ignore the struggles in another denomination is both unloving and ignorant of the fact that when one member of the Church suffers, the whole body is affected, though in ways we may not always see. Second, the issues discussed in Mahrt's essay are not nearly as insular as some might think. If no man is an island, then no church is one either. Or to the extent that they are islands, we may say that they are a family of islands, with connections under the sea level, and which together is influenced by the same rivers and tributaries. One thing is for sure, though some of the phenomena brought up by Mahrt are not very common today in Missouri Synod parishes, others are.

Perhaps one of the most significant issues brought up in this piece is that of the christocentricity of the Church gathered around the voice of the good and Divine Shepherd (I think here of Luther's conception of the Church in the Smalcald Articles) which is compromised today by liturgical theories which place the liturgical "assembly" at the center of attention. This shows up liturgically in all sorts of ways, not only linguistically, but also musically, and even architecturally. This issue even factors, I believe, into the problem of the celebrant "presiding" from behind the bar (oops, I mean the altar), thereby effectively forming a complete circle turned into itself, so that the local congregation has less and less ceremonial or ritual reason to think that there might be a Church outside of the circle of congregants there assembled.

So we see in liturgiology a truth that applies just as well to all other areas of theology, such as Biblical studies, or dogmatics, or ethics, or whatever, namely, when the christocentricity (in this case-of the liturgy) is compromised, along with it the Church's healthy view of itself suffers as well. The Church cannot know herself apart from a healthy focus on her Sacred Head, and Redeemer. Likewise, man cannot truly know himself apart from knowing God, and his proper relationship with Him, hence the genius of Augustine's prayer, Noverim me, noverim Te.

Thank you, Mr. Tucker, for highlighting this article over at NLM.

No comments: