Sunday, April 17, 2011

The place of ritual liturgy and worship services in the Spiritual life

The congregation I pastor meets in the chapel of Immanuel Lutheran Church and the community I lead lives in the Apartment in their tower and their old parsonage.   Yet the relationship is deeper than that.  Also, there are to other worshiping communities (besides Immanuel) that also worship in their building.  About 8 times a year we all worship together, Holy Week and Easter is the main time for doing this.
One of the priests of the Community of St Francis suggested some months ago that in addition to the Liturgy of the Three days that we also do Passion Masses Monday through Wednesday of Holy week.  I agreed, and so Reconciler and St Francis are leading these services.

As Holy Week has approached I have wondered why I said yes to such a thing, so that essentially Holy Week is full of worship services.  Sure there are perhaps aesthetic reasons, and that I have been associated with only one other church that had worship every day of Holy Week, and so it is for me a tad novel.  However, I am a person of my time, so I ask the question, what difference does it make? What relationship to life does this week full of worship service contemplating the death and resurrection of Christ have? Initially, I have to admit, I had difficulty answering this for myself.

Somehow it seems to me we, even I who love liturgy and ritual, we find ritual and liturgy to be divorced from life.  We have difficulty connecting a rhythm and cycle that repeats itself with life.  Oddly enough it was reading a book on a Feminist interpretation of the Apocalypse of St John, and reflecting on Apocalyptic that recalled for me why this is all so important and why I intuitively affirmed Father Greg's suggestion.  Partly this is an issue of time, and about a rhythm to time that isn't strictly speaking linear, however it also isn't about a merely cyclical time either.

Holy Week and Easter are the ordering rhythms of time for Christian faith, and thus for the church of the underlying reality of the World.  We return to it each and every Sunday, each Sunday being a little easter, each Sunday we remember the first Eucharist and the Last Supper (one in the same event) Jesus betrayal and death and Jesus' Resurection - its all there in the words spoken over bread and wine, that become for us Jesus Christ the bread come down from heaven.

Even so, time a linear time, time in which I age, time in which I will someday cease to be, time of clock and schedules wears me down.  In this time I can forget.  In this time I forget to live in the rhythms and time of God Holy Trinity and of the Christ.   Yet, in this time I am also striving to live out this other time, these other rhythms, this return to that time, this sabbath, that came before the 8th day of the Resurrection, also the first day of the week.  The Apocalypse shows us this other time, this time that overlays or underlays other time, in which I am to live.  This time of the 8th day, is to be manifest in my life, and thus break into the everyday life and time of the world as we know it.

A Pauline way of saying this is to say that I am to have the mind of Christ, that Christ is to be formed in me. The point of these rituals, of the rhythms and patterns of the Church year and its rites and ceremonies, isn't the ceremonies themselves nor the aesthetics of them, but that they are to reveal and form ourselves, in light of this other time.

I agreed to this intensive schedule of worship services and liturgies this coming week, because in them I enter a time that is to infect my day to day life.  In these liturgies Christ is to be formed in me.  I meditate on the Passion of Christ, for in that I find the mind of Christ and the Character of the God of the universe and time.  Especially in this week that begins with the contradictions of acclamation of Christ as Messiah and then the cries for his death from our mouths, forms us in the way of Christ, the Way of the Cross. This is a dark way that leads to our enlightenment, that forms us for another time and world, that is what this world and time was to be.