The Spirit of Worship

Article excerpt

The Spirit of Worship. By Susan J. White. Traditions of Christian Spirituality Series. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2000. 159 pp. $13.00 (paper).

During the closing decades of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first there has been a significant rebirth of interest in and commitinent to Christian spirituality, especially in relation to deepening the spiritual life of the laity of the various Christian communities. Theological colleges and training centers offer a cornucopia of programs in centering prayer, feciio riiuiMa, and other spiritual disciplines. What is sometimes lacking in such programs is attention to the primary spiritual experience of every Christian, the Sunday assembly and the sacraments.

In The Spirit of Worship Susan White offers us a helpful introduction to the spirituality of the liturgy. She docs not limit her observations to the "usual suspects," that is, the Roman and Eastern traditions, but includes reflections drawn from the experience of Christians from the Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and more radical Protestant traditions.

She begins by asking "What is liturgical spirituality?" Her working definition is simple and direct: "the liturgical tradition of Christian spirituality is constituted by those who say . . . that the primary source for the nourishment of the Christian spiritual life is to be found in the Church's public worship" (p. 15). Moving from this starting point she directs our attention to five themes.

Whites first theme is how liturgy reveals our identity and vocation. Here she addresses how various traditions answer questions about our identity as human beings made in the image and likeness of God and about the meaning of our lives. She then moves to discuss her second theme, how liturgy establishes community, a necessary corrective in a time when many concentrate on more individualistic expressions of spirituality. …