Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology

By Gordon W. Lathrop | Go to book overview

2
Basic Patterns in
The Ordo of Christian Worship

The pattern of the Bible in Christian worship is the pattern of the ordo, that ritual ordering and “shape of the liturgy”1 that has united Christians throughout the ages. Ordo here will not mean simply the written directions about what service to schedule at what time or what specific rite, scripture readings, or prayers to use, although that is one primary meaning of the word in the West,2 but the presuppositions active behind such scheduling. If we wish to inquire about the meaning of the assembly, we may find help in books of scheduling and reports of ordering and in the patterns they presume. To inquire into the structure of the ordo is to inquire about the way meaning occurs in Christian worship. The thesis operative here is this: Meaning occurs through structure, by one thing set next to another. The scheduling of the ordo, the setting of one liturgical thing next to another in the shape of the liturgy, evokes and replicates the deep structure of biblical language, the use of the old to say the new by means of juxtaposition.

That there is a pattern in liturgical worship is a common theme in much of the twentieth-century scholarship dealing with the data of the Christian assembly. Anton Baumstark proposed that structures of worship were the

1. See Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (New York:Seabury, 1983), for one twentiethcentury inquiry into the origin and meaning of “shape” in Christian worship. More recently, see Allen Cabaniss, Pattern in Early Christian Worship (Macon, Ga.: Mercer, 1989).

2. On the term ordo used for liturgy, see Cyrille Vogel, Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources (Washington, D.C.: Pastoral Press, 1986), 135–36. On the relationship between ordo as liturgical pattern and schedule and ordo as “class” or “order” into which the liturgical ministers are “ordained,” see below in chapter 8. See also David Power, “Church Order,” in The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, P. Fink, ed. (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1990), 212–233.

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