Why We Are Liturgical

 

And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, athe Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Acts 13:2–3 NASB

Liturgy means, “the work of the people,” but that definition gives little insight into why we do liturgy and why it is important. Liturgy is an ordered service of worship that includes the reading of the Word, the preaching of the Word, and the experience of the Word (i.e., Holy Eucharist): these elements bring us, the people of God, into the presence of God. The liturgy ushers us into the presence of God, so that, we might encounter afresh the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are liturgical because it is ancient, holy, participatory, cross-centered, and God-centered. Liturgy develops a consistency in our worship, discipleship, and spiritual growth. Liturgy is is not an end in itself, but an ancient pattern of worship that magnifies Christ and his finished work on the cross.

At the church where I serve, we kneel to confess our sins.  We chant a Kyrie, the Sursum Corda, and many of the ancient canticles of the church (Te Deum,Gloria) as part of our musical ascent into God’s presence.  We use Collects, sing the Lord’s prayer each week, say or sing a creed.  The pastors who lead worship wear white robes and stoles whose colors change with the liturgical seasons.  We have seasonally-colored paraments on the pulpit and table.  We are coming to the end of a Lenten season, and we will be telling people over the next several weeks that we are still celebrating Easter, and then we will have an Ascension service.

We believe that all of these practices are biblically-based and edifying for the church.  We believe it is better for a liturgical minister to be marked with a white robe than for him to be dressed in a suit or a Genevan black gown, better to observe the church calendar than not.  These practices are not a matter of taste or merely for aesthetic appeal (though they have their aesthetic appeal), nor are they mere window-dressing.  Though we don’t think that white robes  or observing the church seasons or chanting are of the esse of the church, we believe that they promote the bene esse of the church.  We think these are means for deepening the worshiper’s and the church’s encounter with the Triune God.

Peter Leithart, “On Not Being Afraid of Becoming “Episcopalian”

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