Finding Liturgy and Discovering Theology
Maybe it's because I grew up in an evangelical, non-denominational, charismatic, rhyming worship songs, sanctuary-with-basketball-goals type of church, but I love me some liturgy. This Christmas Eve, my husband and I went to a midnight mass at small-town West Virginia Anglican church, and we've decided it will become a yearly tradition for us. Something about a quaint old sanctuary, candle-lit ambiance, organist and choir playing ancient hymns, and a sermon called a Homily that just seems a more appropriate way to honor the incarnation of Jesus than the "Christmas Cantada" I'm used to. I love the antiphonal prayers, Scripture reading, kneeling, standing, sitting, kneeling, standing combo, and every time I say the Apostle's Creed, I am moved to remember the tenants of this faith I hold so dear.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
In a small chapel, filled with penitent candlelit faces, I am usually moved to tears. On Christmas Eve, J.May, my husband, leaned over and whispered, "Are you okay?" With tears were streaming down my face, I totally missed the cue from the little choir-robed girl to go up to the front to receive communion. And once you miss the line, you're out of luck. I thought to myself, "We probably looked like those heathens that aren't baptized and can't take communion." Part of me wanted to clarify to everyone after the service, "No really, we do know how to take communion, and we're allowed." But I didn't. We quietly and revently made our way back to our car, holding hands, thinking about the incarnate Christ, and it was beautiful.
I remember at a Onething conference in Calgary, Alberta, Luke Wood sang that Rich Mullins song 'Creed.' A friend of mine came to me afterward saying, "You know, I didn't really ever think about what specifically makes me a Christian, but it really is all those things in that song."
Now I'm not religious about this, but I also very much like the Book of Common Prayer, and enjoy readings and prayers from it. (If you're really looking for a copy, I'd recommend a used bookstore.) Maybe with all the hubub and commotion in the modern world, there's something in me that longs to see some sort of a return to solemnity, doctrine, and substance. This blog is probably chalk full of those kind of musings.
Since it is evening for me now, here's an excerpt from the Book of Common Prayer which is also available online. You have to admit, this is some goodness!
I will bless the Lord, who giveth me counsel; my heart
teacheth me, night after night. I have set the Lord always
before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall.
V. O Lord, show thy mercy upon us;
R. And grant us thy salvation.
V. Endue thy ministers with righteousness;
R. And make thy chosen people joyful.
V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R. For only in thee can we live in safety.
V. Lord, keep this nation under thy care;
R. And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
V. Let thy way be known upon earth;
R. Thy saving health among all nations.
V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
V. Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R. And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.
Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day
is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and
awaken hope, that we may know thee as thou art revealed in
Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake
of thy love. Amen.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we thine unworthy servants
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all men.
We bless thee for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech thee,
give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful;
and that we show forth thy praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to thy service,
and by walking before thee
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit,
be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
Christians have become so fearful of anything that appears 'religious' or 'traditional,' that we have so often thrown the baby right out with the bathwater. Have you ever been to a more traditional service and felt the presence of the Lord? What was it like? I'd love to hear your thoughts.