Sunday, January 16, 2011

Creedal Orthodoxy and the Divine Liturgy.

This is from a new article on liturgy I'm working on.  I plan to try to have it published in Pro Ecclesia.

From its origins, the practice of the historic Christian faith has consistently been tied up with liturgical worship.[1]  Just as the law of prayer is the law of faith (lex orandi, lex credendi), so too the faith that is believed (fides quae creditor) is ultimately expresses itself by the choice of certain worship forms over others.  Prior to the Enlightenment, communions that accepted the presuppositions of Nicene orthodoxy (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed) consistently worshiped according to common liturgical forms and structures. Conversely, those that did not accept the assumptions present in Nicene orthodoxy (the Quakers, [2] for example) did not.  Hence the choice of certain common embodied forms of worship was and remains not merely a holdover from the ancient Church and its roots in Judaism (which, as it should be strongly noted, maintained a liturgical worship in both Temple and Synagogue worship).[3]  Rather, liturgical worship is inherently expressive of certain theological presuppositions embedded in the basic evangelical-catholic ontology and metanarrative as it is set down in the creeds.[4]  Even with the variations between the different communal liturgies, there remains a structure core of similarity between them.  In examining the common structures of liturgical worship, it becomes apparent that the said structures are representative of creedal orthodoxy by the assumptions it bring to bear on the basis of Christian worship.

 First, because God is the almighty creator of original heaven and earth he is also the agent of new creation.  Through his gracious action, God makes “all things new” (Rev 21:5).[5]  He does not do this though by abandoning his previous creative act, but rather by incorporating (we might say, using an Christological analogy, "enhypostatizing"[6]) it in the new action.[7]  Hence, God engages in his act of new creation through the embodied mediums of the old creation, i.e. the signum of the Word and the sacraments, thereby bringing about new and heavenly life.  By structuring Christian worship around the twofold liturgy of the Word and that of the sacrament, liturgical worship is formed by and is centered on the creator God's use of embodied forms as vehicles of the divine-human relationship.

Viewed from this perspective, liturgical worship encompasses and unites the teaching of the first and third articles of the creed.  By enjoying salvation and fellowship with God through certain structured verba and embodied sacramental forms, we both recognize our rootedness in the old creation (first article) in its actualized determinateness, as well as gain a foretaste of the eschatological heavenly feast mediated through them (third article).  

As the "alpha and omega" (Rev 22:13) God the creator encompasses both the protological and the eschatological in his proclamatory and sacramental actions.  Through the proclamatory and sacramental actions of the creator God establishes his verdict as to what he intends for human life in the beginning and also his final judgment regarding the outcome of human life in the end (i.e. the judgment of sin and the justification of the sinner).  As a result of this gift and verdict, we are determined in true freedom, which exercises itself in divine glorification in unity with the heavenly hosts (Isa 6:2-3, Rom 12:1, Heb 13:15, Rev 4-6, 14:1-5, 19).  Human freedom is not self-generated or uncaused, but rather is in accordance with the classical definition of freedom put forth by Augustine  (and Luther) a determinate freedom.  It is human possibility lived within the determining boundaries of God's protological and eschatological act of creation ex nihillo through his Word. 

            Just as liturgical worship expresses the truths of the first and third articles, it unites them in the second article.  Jesus is always the subject of the heavenly and earthly liturgy (Rev 5-6).  Similarly, as embodied worship, liturgical worship that works within certain forms (i.e. the historic liturgy) and also certain created elements (verba, bread, water, wine, etc.).  For this reason, it is intrinsically incarnational.  As incarnational, liturgical worship insists that God the redeemer is embodied and therefore wills not to save apart from created means.  

The incarnational structure of worship expresses the same reality of the unity between the protological and eschatological that we observed in above (Rom 5, 1 Cor 15).  Old creation is incorporated into the act of new creation.  The flesh of the old Adam is incorporated into the person of the new Adam (enhypostasis) in the womb of Mary.  The second Adam actualizes and recapitulates the intended righteousness of the first Adam while also suffering the negative eschatological verdict of God passed on human sin through the cross (2 Cor 5:21).  Having overcome the dark forces of the old creation, he rises to give us access to his eschatological righteousness (Rom 4:25).  Having won freedom from slavery and condemnation, God in Christ, present through Word and sacrament in the monstrance of the liturgical forms incorporates the worshiping community into true, determinate freedom within the boundaries of protological and eschatological promise of grace.

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