Thursday, September 16, 2010

Liturgy Through Chaos

Gordon Lathop 

I am still tracking with Gordon Lathrop and his book, Holy Things.

In a chapter entitled, Things, he unpacks the "things" used in the Liturgy, how they hold meaning for us, and how we experience meaning from their use. These "things" include the bread, the wine, the water, the book, sacred time and the sacred space. Here he makes the following point:

"The things around which we gather in church are matters of concern, events, objects put to use. They focus our meeting, itself a thing. Moreover, they propose to our imaginations that the world itself has a center.  This may be a fiction from a scientific point of view, but we live buy such fictions, sleep and rise and hope and orient ourselves by them."

Later he writes:
"The primary theology of the liturgy, the liturgy itself searching 'for words appropriate to the nature of God' (Alexander Schmemann), begins with things, with people gathered around central things, and these things, by their juxtapositions, speaking truly of God and suggesting meaning for all things...these central things provide the 'words' that the assembly uses to speak of God.

This is a rather astounding statement, really, and one that needs our attention, I think. Lathrop opens to us the real nature of the world, which has to be described as chaos. If you doubt this just take a walk through the tortured halls of a children's cancer ward, where the chaos is palpable.

Now, what staves off the chaos? What offers the human being meaning in the face of the waves of meaninglessness and the endless, astonishing human brutality and suffering? For the Christian believer is it truly the central things of the Liturgy -- the bread, the wine, the water, the book, sacred time and sacred space?

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