Let me say from the beginning that I fully understand and am aware of all the liturgical, historical, and translation reasons that memorial acclamation 1, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again” was removed from the soon to be current translation of the Roman Missal. I’m a liturgical purist, and a little piece of me is completely fine with this omission. After all, it’s not in the “original” latin. Following the standards set by Liturgiam Authenticam, it’s not an o.k. acclamation. It’s not addressed directly to God. And if it isn’t introduced well it really can seem like a side note that gets stuck in, mid Eucharistic Prayer, to make sure everybody’s paying attention. And yes, sometimes I do giggle when we sing the mass of creation version because it evokes a feeling akin to mixing the imperial march from star wars with John Phillips Sousa, and then repeats itself just in case you haven’t had enough imperial marching around. All that to say: I get why it got dropped. 

Dropping the text itself doesn’t bother me that much, for all the afore stated reasons. But singing it at mass for the last time last night really, really bothered me. What bothers me is that I think Mother Church could have done this differently, and used this as a way to reach across the boundary of schism to begin healing a very deep wound. It’s not time for finger pointing- and I heartily admit that protestants have their share to do for healing reformation scars. I find shifting reformation blame completely uninteresting and unhelpful. But it dawned upon me last night that no longer will Protestants and Catholics use the same words to profess their hope in the realization of Christ’s kingdom. This new translation, particularly the point of the mystery of faith, could have been a point where liturgical Protestants (at least mainlines) and Catholics worked together and informed each other. If we had worked together, we still could have dropped memorial acclamation one, no big deal. And when I say we I mean here my whole extended Christian family, weird cousins and all. Protestant liturgy could have grown toward an arguably better expression of the mysterium fide. And Roman Liturgy might have benefited from looking at it’s own genetic development as it was passed down toward its grand children and great grandchildren. We (and here I mean Protestant we) did, after all, steal most of the Roman Rite originally. Just take a close look at the 1662 BCP or Luther’s first few german translations, and you’ll see what I mean.

Again, I find figuring out who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’ for its own sake completely uninteresting and largely unhelpful. Everybody’s to blame for continued schism. What I do find interesting are opportunities for healing and union in the body of Christ. The liturgy can only be for the life of the world when it is the wellspring of the church’s life, it’s source and summit. I’m not angry at anyone, and I’m not even annoyed. I think I feel more like a parent, who knows what my beautiful and brilliant child is capable of, watching that same child settle for less. It makes me unspeakably sad to see yet another opportunity for healing and life pass my Christian family by, untried. In this particular move, I think all of us would have benefited from an aim toward eternal life along with formal latin. The two need not be diametrically opposed.

Let’s do better by each other next time, y’all. We’re family.

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iLiturgize

May 29, 2010

My friend Katie is a champion multi-tasker with school & news & blogs. I confess, I am not (hence, I haven’t posted in several months). She sent me this article on Cyber-Worship a few months ago, in the thick of Advent, GRE, and finals and I didn’t have a chance to actually sit down and think about it on paper until recently. The article reinforces something we all probably knew deep down… the liturgical community desperately needs  to grapple with and engage the ‘online worship’ phenomenon. For the sake and love of all things apple and trendy, and for a fun play on words: let’s call it ‘iLiturgy.’

Right away, there are notable upsides to online liturgy: the biggest being that people who cannot go to church are able to participate. In this sense it functions as a tv-worship service of the same variety I used to watch every summer Sunday I spent at my Nana’s house. For some, there are physical limitations or illnesses that truly prevent their physical presence and a webcast quite frankly presences them with the community. For others though, TV or Internet worship becomes a substitute for a real, living breathing worshiping community.  Rather than building a bridge to worship, it hyper-personalizes the experience and removes any responsibility to the worshiping community.

I realize that I am toeing the Duke Divinity line here, but people outside the bubble agree: you can’t participate in Christ without participating in Christ’s people. And here is the fundamental problem cyber worship must overcome. First, we need people to remove the logs from our eyes and show us our sins plain and simple. And then we need one another to lean on as we stumble toward reconciliation with Christ.

We need a living, breathing, community of screw-ball human beings to reveal all the grotesque monsters and madness we masquerade as individuality, quirks, or (worse) “necessary evils.” Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche community, writes that in community, “we realize how incapable we are of oiving, how much we deny life to others. So community life brings a painful revelation of our own limitations.” Unless we are confronted with Christ in others: unless we are reconciled to our brothers and sisters Paul would say, all of our praise songs and bread and juice mean nothing, nada, zip, zilch etc. And believe me, if you attend a church for a few weeks, you’ll probably find somebody to forgive. Attend a church for a day or two and you’ll probably need to ask forgiveness.

But finding our own sin, we learn to ask for forgiveness from one another, from Christ. And with forgiveness comes reconciliation. When we pass the peace (which ought to come after the confession), Christians make a bold declaration: all the sin in the world cannot over come Christ’s power to forgive and restore. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, In Christ you are a new creation, and remember Paul was writing to the whole church. All this hangs on participating in Christ together, at the same table, in the same pew.

Hear me now, I am not saying that invalids and the home and hospital bound cannot really worship. Chances are, if somebody puts that much energy into watching a grainy, spotty, reproduction of worship they have known the community and all its messyness and managed to learn how to love. But for the rest of us, most of us, particularly us ‘younguns’: we’d best learn how to love each other in the pews. Because heaven knows, we don’t do  in the world.