Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology

Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology

Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology

Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology

Excerpt

On Sunday, throughout the world, Christians assemble to do their rituals, to sing and say their words, and do their holy actions. Astonishing as it can seem in the age of television and of the demise of most small public assemblies, this regular meeting survives. Sometimes it even thrives, being very dear to the participants. Why? What does this meeting mean? How do its traditional words and symbols make any sense or offer any help amidst the flood of modern conditions: huge productions of wealth and the decay of city centers; new knowledge and new ignorance; burgeoning pluralistic democracies and fierce new xenophobias; the memory of unspeakable holocausts and the hope for technological excellence; consumerism and multiculturalism; rich people nursing unhealed psychic wounds, the poor struggling to survive, and the earth itself in need of protection. Is the Sunday meeting—the liturgy, the mass, the worship service—simply the survival of a collection of quaint customs from a more secure and simple time? Or do its symbolic interactions propose to us a realistic pattern for interpreting our world, for containing our actual experiences, and for enabling action and hope? Say that the meeting is like this:

An assembly of people gathers. The gathering place may be very
simple—a hut, a room, a house—or quite elaborate, one of the
buildings developed over time from the large public buildings of the
late Roman empire. Singing enables these people to come together,
and prayer, often spoken by one who acts as a presider, sums up the
sense of the song, interpreting that coming together as being before
God. Then, as if this were the principal reason for the gathering,
ancient texts are read by one or more readers. Frequently the
readings are interspersed with further song. The presider speaks

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