A Pilgrim’s Progress: Towards Liturgy

books

Anglo-Catholic blog Covenant has posted a non-denominational pastor’s reflection on using the Book of Common Prayer and his engagement with liturgical worship in general.

I deeply relate with author Austin Gohn’s encounter with the catholic liturgy. While my experience was different from Gohn’s, I distinctly remember in high school when I encountered the Lutheran Book of Worship, the fruit of the same movement that produced the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. I remember my confusion at when to stand, when to sit, and when to kneel (more familiar to me than Gohn, but not entirely comfortable). I remember my dis-ease at seeing Lutherans drinking from a common cup; I was, at that time, firmly in the intinction camp. I remember the patience required as I tried to juggle the “green book,” With One Voice, the bulletin (complete with insert), and the Bible. (As I wrote in my own reflection on the Liturgy of the Hours, learning the liturgy takes practice. It calls out for a community to guide newcomers through the turning of many pages.) Continue reading “A Pilgrim’s Progress: Towards Liturgy”

The Sign of the Cross

Question: Why do we make the sign of the cross?

signofthecross
Christ the King Cathedral, Reykjavik, Iceland

The sign of the cross serves as something of a liturgical barometer. Want to know where a parish falls on the scale between “low” and “high” liturgy? Look for how many people make the sign of the cross and how often. On the one side, there are congregations that shy away from the sign of the cross for fear that it’s “too Catholic.” On the other side, there are parishes in which people seem to cross themselves at every turn.

In either case, though, one has to wonder: do the people actually know what it means? If Baptists understood the full implication of the sign of the cross, would they adopt the practice? Have liturgical Christians let the sign of the cross become a mere reflex?

What is this weird hand gesture? How old is this tradition? And what does it all mean?

Short Answer: Tracing the sign of the cross is an ancient physical reminder of our connection to Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Holy Trinity, and God’s blessing.

Continue reading “The Sign of the Cross”

Vatican II: Hear the Difference

The 20th century was a period of great liturgical renewal and reform, especially between 1955 and 1980. In the United States alone, those twenty-five years saw two new Lutheran hymnals (and a move towards liturgical unity across the Lutheran denominations), a revised Book of Common Prayer, and the first official vernacular translations of the Roman Catholic liturgy.

The liturgical changes came as the result of a surge in historical research beginning in the 1800s. Indeed, Lutherans of a certain age will remember the old Common Service Book, used for some four decades (1918-1958), but the basic order of service was put together in the 1880s.

In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, liturgical scholars were part of the driving force behind the Second Vatican Council and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The resulting changers were staggering. The chalice was restored to the laity, the priest turned towards the people (versus populi, as opposed to facing east, ad orientem), and the Mass was celebrated in the language of the people. Continue reading “Vatican II: Hear the Difference”

One Baptism: Re-Baptism, the Christian Faith

Question: Ok, so the pastor is throwing water at us. Does that mean we are being re-baptized?

An ordained pastor says a prayer over the water at the Font and then sprinkles people with water? To an outside observer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism might look a lot like the asperges. So is the pastor re-baptizing the congregation?

Short Answer: By no means! Baptism follows a very particular formula (“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”). The grace poured out in that Sacrament is sufficient for a lifetime, and the Church has long held that Baptism is not something that need be repeated — nor can it be repeated. Continue reading “One Baptism: Re-Baptism, the Christian Faith”

Remember Your Baptism: Why We’re Getting Splashed

Question: Why is the Pastor throwing water at us at the beginning of the service?

Starting at the Easter Vigil, we have taken up a rite called asperges, in which the pastor and other ministers fling water from the Font into the Assembly. What’s going on here?

The Short Answer: As a way to tangibly remember our Baptism during the Great Fifty Days of Easter. Continue reading “Remember Your Baptism: Why We’re Getting Splashed”