Tuesday, July 10, 2012

spectacles & the liturgy

The year I started seminary study I went to get an eye exam, and sure enough, I was found to be in need of glasses for reading.  After a couple of years those glasses disappeared.  As I recall, I left them sitting on the table at a restaurant, and when I went back, they were gone.  Well, I've finally decided, several years later, to invest in another exam and pair of glasses.  I'm very mindful of these glasses, perhaps more so than people who wear theirs all the time, since I put mine on when I read, write, and work on the computer, and take them off when I'm not engaged in those tasks.  In other words, they go on and off quite a lot, and I'm continually handling them.

And one of the thoughts to which I'm repeatedly drawn, as I fumble with these glasses in church, is that the need to wear glasses at Mass is a sign that there is something fundamentally wrong with the state of the liturgy in the modern Church.  In theory, the Lutheran Church prides itself in being the praying Church, ecclesia orans; in reality, she has fallen from that ideal, and prefers to live her common life as the reading Church, ecclesia legens.  I find myself having to put on my glasses for parts of the liturgy in which I am least interested in participating, like 20th century hymns of questionable worth, or clever confessions of sin, like the so called Setting Four.

When I wear glasses at Mass I am also holding whatever it is that I am reading.  This, of course, robs me of the freedom to hold my hands in prayer and worship.  Reading also robs me of the ability to gaze upon the altar, or sacred art, or close my eyes. 

More importantly, the Church is leaving behind the disabled, the illiterate, the very young, and the attention challenged.  The liturgy was meant to be known, deeply, by the the Church's members, and worship was meant to involve the mind, the heart, and the body.  These are ancient lessons we could learn anew, if we were to move away from the trend to use liturgical forms which require us to read.

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