Thursday, January 17, 2008

Holy Moments

Let me begin by stating that the reason for posting this is a frustration with my own practices. When I arrive at a corporate worship service (church), I typically enjoy the time to mingle and see those people who I have not seen for the last week. It is, typically, a joyous occasion. Upon arriving in the sanctuary, or the space of worship, I sit down, get comfortable, read through the program, and greet those sitting near me. This all seems peaches and cream, until you read writings of the apostolic, post-apostolic tradition that understood what it meant to come together as a corporate body. The following is an excerpt from Egeria (4th century pilgrim), writing about public daily prayer on the special vigil of the resurrection that takes place on Sunday mornings:

But on the seventh day, the Lord's Day, there gather in the courtyard before cock-crow all the people, as many as can get in, as if it was Easter. The courtyard is the "basilica" beside the Anastasis, that is to say, out of doors, and lamps have been hung there for them. Those who are afraid they may not arrive in time for cock-crow come early, and sit waiting there singing hymns and antiphons, and they have prayers between, since there are always presbyters and deacons there ready for the vigil, because so many people collect there, and it is not usualy to open the holy places before cock-crow." (John F. Baldovin, S.J., The Oxford History of Christian Worship)

How incredible, to realize such an importance of worship, that when gathered early, the saints join together to sing and pray. We don't "go" to worship, we go worshiping. There is a vast difference in this thinking, and it is a thinking that I do not yet understand in practice. Thank you Egeria for the example!

Holy Moments

Let me begin by stating that the reason for posting this is a frustration with my own practices. When I arrive at a corporate worship service (church), I typically enjoy the time to mingle and see those people who I have not seen for the last week. It is, typically, a joyous occasion. Upon arriving in the sanctuary, or the space of worship, I sit down, get comfortable, read through the program, and greet those sitting near me. This all seems peaches and cream, until you read writings of the apostolic, post-apostolic tradition that understood what it meant to come together as a corporate body. The following is an excerpt from Egeria (4th century pilgrim), writing about public daily prayer on the special vigil of the resurrection that takes place on Sunday mornings:
But on the seventh day, the Lord's Day, there gather in the courtyard before cock-crow all the people, as many as can get in, as if it was Easter. The courtyard is the "basilica" beside the Anastasis, that is to say, out of doors, and lamps have been hung there for them. Those who are afraid they may not arrive in time for cock-crow come early, and sit waiting there singing hymns and antiphons, and they have prayers between, since there are always presbyters and deacons there ready for the vigil, because so many people collect there, and it is not usualy to open the holy places before cock-crow." (John F. Baldovin, S.J., The Oxford History of Christian Worship)
How incredible, to realize such an importance of worship, that when gathered early, the saints join together to sing and pray. We don't "go" to worship, we go worshiping. There is a vast difference in this thinking, and it is a thinking that I do not yet understand in practice. Thank you Egeria for the example!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Thomas Merton and Destiny

I was reading Thomas Merton's book, Echoing Silence, and was impacted by a letter that Merton wrote to Mark Van Doren, on March 30, 1948:

I can no longer see the ultimate meaning of a man's life in terms of either "being a poet" or "being a contemplative" or even in a certain sense in "being a saint" (although that is the only thing to be). It must be something much more immediate than that. I--and every other person in the world--must say: "I have my own special, peculiar destiny which no one else ever has had or ever will have. There exists for me a particular goal, a fulfillment which must be all my own--nobody else's--& it does not really identify that destiny to put it under some category--'poet,' 'monk,' 'hermit.' Because my own individual destiny is a meeting, an encounter with God that He has destined for me alone. His glory in me will be to receive from me something He can never receive from anyone else--because it is a gift of His to me which He has never given to anyone else & never will. My whole life is only that--to establish that particular constant with God which is the one He has planned for my eternity!"
(Thomas Merton, Echoing Silence (Boston: New Seeds, 2007), 12.)

All too often, the secularist seeks to define his or her meaning by becoming like others who have been successful in the past. All to often, Christians seek to understand their purpose by doing good works and being like those who have gone before them. Merton reminds us that each individual is gifted by God and plays an important part in this physical life. It is all-to-easy to live a life of comparison, gaining acceptance (or rejection) from those whom we live among. We are to turn our eyes towards God, relinquishing our inherent desires to satisfy our acceptability within society.

The Oxford History of Christian Worship

Thursday, January 10th 2008, will mark the first meeting of our History of Worship and Spirituality class. Differing from other seminary classes I have taken, this class has one, and only one textbook, entitled The Oxford History of Christian Worship. It is 916 pages long, filled with language that I would expect from Oxford scholars. I have just completed the reading of Chapter 1, “Christian Worship: Scriptural Basis and Theological Frame.” As a requirement for this course, we are required to write a two-three page academic/practical interaction with the text after each section. It is my goal to use this blog in a way that can fulfill, at least partially, this requirement.

So to begin, Chapter 1 deals with the scriptural basis for Christian Worship. It begins with the treatment of a monotheistic view of God, accepted and taught by the Christian Church. “Phenomenologically speaking, there are, in the sense of Luther and Calvin, “many (so-called) gods” and “many (so-called) lords,” but the Christian confession is that “there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (I Cor. 8:4-6; cf. John 17:3; I John 5:20-21).” (The Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 2.) The importance of such a belief is the foundational understanding of the Christian faith. This being that we acknowledge as the only True God, is both to be feared and loved. “If the Creator inspires fear (“terrifies”), it is on account of his power and his purity; if he attracts (“fascinates”), it is by his creating love and his redeeming grace” (Oxford, 2).

Humankind, being created in the image of God (Imago Dei), is expressed in three manifestos: Communion with God, Life in Society, and Administration of the Earth. Communion with God is most easily expressed through the Westminister Assembly’s Shorter Catechism of 1647-1648: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” (Oxford, 9). Life in Society can be summed up through Geoffrey Wainwright’s comment: ““The social constitution of humankind finds redeemed embodiment in the Christian community at worship, even if its realization remains imperfect.” (Oxford, 13). And administration of the earth, misunderstood and abused throughout history, is still the role of humankind: “the human task is to “till the earth and keep it” (2:15), and the power to “name” the nonhuman creation (2:19-20) is less the right to exploit it than the duty to give it meaning.” (Oxford, 20-21).

The mediums by which we express this worship can be seen within time, space, matter, and artistic production, thus designating and defining our worship as being truly Christian.

Thomas Merton and Destiny

I was reading Thomas Merton's book, Echoing Silence, and was impacted by a letter that Merton wrote to Mark Van Doren, on March 30, 1948:
I can no longer see the ultimate meaning of a man's life in terms of either "being a poet" or "being a contemplative" or even in a certain sense in "being a saint" (although that is the only thing to be). It must be something much more immediate than that. I--and every other person in the world--must say: "I have my own special, peculiar destiny which no one else ever has had or ever will have. There exists for me a particular goal, a fulfillment which must be all my own--nobody else's--& it does not really identify that destiny to put it under some category--'poet,' 'monk,' 'hermit.' Because my own individual destiny is a meeting, an encounter with God that He has destined for me alone. His glory in me will be to receive from me something He can never receive from anyone else--because it is a gift of His to me which He has never given to anyone else & never will. My whole life is only that--to establish that particular constant with God which is the one He has planned for my eternity!"
(Thomas Merton, Echoing Silence (Boston: New Seeds, 2007), 12.)

All too often, the secularist seeks to define his or her meaning by becoming like others who have been successful in the past. All to often, Christians seek to understand their purpose by doing good works and being like those who have gone before them. Merton reminds us that each individual is gifted by God and plays an important part in this physical life. It is all-to-easy to live a life of comparison, gaining acceptance (or rejection) from those whom we live among. We are to turn our eyes towards God, relinquishing our inherent desires to satisfy our acceptability within society.

The Oxford History of Christian Worship

Thursday, January 10th 2008, will mark the first meeting of our History of Worship and Spirituality class. Differing from other seminary classes I have taken, this class has one, and only one textbook, entitled The Oxford History of Christian Worship. It is 916 pages long, filled with language that I would expect from Oxford scholars. I have just completed the reading of Chapter 1, “Christian Worship: Scriptural Basis and Theological Frame.” As a requirement for this course, we are required to write a two-three page academic/practical interaction with the text after each section. It is my goal to use this blog in a way that can fulfill, at least partially, this requirement.

So to begin, Chapter 1 deals with the scriptural basis for Christian Worship. It begins with the treatment of a monotheistic view of God, accepted and taught by the Christian Church. “Phenomenologically speaking, there are, in the sense of Luther and Calvin, “many (so-called) gods” and “many (so-called) lords,” but the Christian confession is that “there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (I Cor. 8:4-6; cf. John 17:3; I John 5:20-21).” (The Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 2.) The importance of such a belief is the foundational understanding of the Christian faith. This being that we acknowledge as the only True God, is both to be feared and loved. “If the Creator inspires fear (“terrifies”), it is on account of his power and his purity; if he attracts (“fascinates”), it is by his creating love and his redeeming grace” (Oxford, 2).

Humankind, being created in the image of God (Imago Dei), is expressed in three manifestos: Communion with God, Life in Society, and Administration of the Earth. Communion with God is most easily expressed through the Westminister Assembly’s Shorter Catechism of 1647-1648: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” (Oxford, 9). Life in Society can be summed up through Geoffrey Wainwright’s comment: ““The social constitution of humankind finds redeemed embodiment in the Christian community at worship, even if its realization remains imperfect.” (Oxford, 13). And administration of the earth, misunderstood and abused throughout history, is still the role of humankind: “the human task is to “till the earth and keep it” (2:15), and the power to “name” the nonhuman creation (2:19-20) is less the right to exploit it than the duty to give it meaning.” (Oxford, 20-21).

The mediums by which we express this worship can be seen within time, space, matter, and artistic production, thus designating and defining our worship as being truly Christian.