Friday, November 28, 2008

Liturgical Form

Society, in our fast paced post-modern culture, reminds me of a small boat that has lost its rudder, anchor, and sails. It has lost its ability to hold itself safely fast. It cannot steer itself toward safe harbor. It is victim to any and every wind, destined to be dashed to pieces on the rocks and reefs.

Historical foundations, guides that are more often viewed by this society as restrictive interferences, are abandoned in favor of less restrictive ideals. Liturgy, in the mind of post-modern society, is unimportant, contains no contemporary meaning. Devoid of historical liturgical form, life becomes fashioned by whim and fancy, personal emotion and notion.

No rudder. No anchor. No sails. Victims of the changing winds and storms of life.

Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter.
Advent. Lent. Easter. Pentecost. Ordinary.
Matins. Prime. Tierce. Nones. Vespers. Compline.
Glorious, Joyful, Luminous, and Sorrowful Mysteries.

Natural and liturgical rudders, anchors, and sails that offer, promise would be more exact, something deep and meaningful to any person or society that dares to allow them to serve as their personal governors.

I lived most of my life outside of any kind of prescribed liturgical form. My life was lived extemporaneously. As a Protestant pastor, I chose what texts I preached from. Extemporaneous prayer was the only kind of prayer I knew. Essentially, I wrote my own liturgy to fit my own perceived needs.

Looking back, I have to admit that what I preached and how I prayed were generally governed by the emotional and situational context formed by my own subjective human perceptions and those of the congregational moment. Subjective objectivity, though sincere, is more often very near sighted. Without corrective lenses we are always stepping into potholes, twisting our ankles, or worse.[1] It is a prescription for disaster.

Discovering and returning to historical forms, aligning my own liturgy of life with historical liturgical norms rather than trying to create my own syncretistic version that easily accommodates life in this post-modern society, is not without some significant challenges.

Seeing the pathway through all the fog and smog of post-modernity is one thing. Mustering the courage to set foot on the pathway and begin walking it is altogether another thing. Perseverance to stay on the pathway, once we’ve discovered it, once we’ve started on our way, is something else entirely. What else, though, can we do? What other real choice do we have once our vessel has been divinely fitted with what it needs for a successful voyage?

[1] Matthew 15:14