The Liturgical Centre of Life

I was just reflecting on some comments by Photios Jones on Energetic Procession about Tradition and Liturgy with other thoughts about theology based on Liturgy and I wondered why this is so. The following thoughts came to mind.

Christ is our Life. He is the centre of it and all of it. We live in Him and He in us. The Liturgy is the ultimate manifestation of the Life of Christ. It is the Mystery of His life in which we participate and at the pinnacle is the very participation in this life of our whole life, in body and soul. The rest of life a continuation of this Mystery. That is why we feel most alive and natural in the Liturgy because we are living the fullness of our life.

Holy Tradition is the body of faith and practice that manifest the life of Christ. It was taught to Apostles by Christ and transmitted orally and in writing. These teachings provide a rule of life in all its aspects so that we may live the life of Christ in its fullness. Because the Liturgy is the centre of this life the Liturgy is also the centre of Tradition. The Liturgy encompasses the fullness of the Tradition and is its fullest manifestation. Thus to understand the Tradition, to understand the Scripture one must see it in context of the Liturgy. When one interprets Scripture they must do so in context of the Liturgy, which is the life of Christ to which the Scriptures bear witness. When one walks away from the teaching or practice of the Church, it is the Liturgy from which they are excluded, from the centre of the Tradition.

Because the Liturgy is the centre of our life in Christ, its whole way must manifest the life in Christ. It is not merely the breaking of bread but encompasses the whole process, including its setting. Architecture, icons, music and rites as well as words all reflect the life of Christ, they are all Holy and Divine. Although there are exceptions due to circumstance that do not affect the heart of the Liturgy, nevertheless, the wrong architecture, the wrong music, the wrong icons, and especially the wrong rites and words can all distort the full manifestation of the life of Christ. Tradition, although transcending material limits, also incorporates material detail and makes it part of the process. Yes, there is a variety of detail in the Liturgy but there is also a uniformity of detail. Although not bound by detail the Liturgy is not divorced from detail.

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2 Responses to The Liturgical Centre of Life

  1. Visibilium says:

    What do you think about the Orthodox Western Rite?

  2. monkpatrick says:

    Visibilium,

    As far as the Western rites of the Church before the Schism go, I have no problem with their validity, even though they do differ from Eastern rites on some points. Using these rites today would be perfectly acceptable as it was then.

    The difficulty with these rites today is that they have not been performed by Orthodox for centuries and thus have been developed and maintained in the hands of those not sharing the Orthodox Faith and life of worship. Thus, there have been the inclusion or exclusion of elements that are not in keeping with Orthodoxy. The silent and unwritten traditions that surrounded this rites have also been somewhat lost and these carry many important aspects in the Orthodox performance of the rites as they do in Eastern rites.

    These matters may be remedied but I feel that such a process is perhaps a little artificial, lacks a form of organic connection and is maybe subject to particular theological trends of our time rather than developed within the constant Tradition of the Church. For example, the inclusion of the epiclesis within the present Latin rite, I feel is somewhat artificial and doesn’t consider the full development of the rite and that it already contains an epiclesis, although found in a different location and manner after changes to the rite in the fourth Century. Roman Catholic interpretations have tended to cloud this and their emphasis on the words of institution that encourage an Orthodox reaction to this. This is where development of the rite with Orthodox churches over this time may have helped to re-emphasise the epiclesis already within the rite or perhaps a better rewriting of the rite to counter the potential false interpretations of it.

    Nevertheless, I believe until changes to the rite last century by the Roman Church, both in 1911 and 1965, the rite was unchanged in its set parts from before the Schism and it can be used by the Orthodox Church as a legitimate rite. Coming, from a Western cultural heritage I find myself quite drawn to the rite as my spiritual ancestors used it.

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