Up to just a few years ago, my Christian journey traveled well-marked paths through Charismatic and Evangelical landscapes. Among other things, that meant my spiritual life was fairly void of anything that smacked of being “high-church.” Sure, I took communion, but only as a symbol. I got baptized, but more for the experience (on a beautiful beach in Hawaii) than anything else. Written prayers were a sign of spiritual deadness; liturgy was spiritual compromise; and God forbid that I would even consider the value of icons and other such idolatry. Just Jesus, the Bible and me (and not usually in that order).
But things have changed. A significant part of that change was the painful realization that my spiritual life was almost non-existent. As I began to walk the journey of spiritual formation, I became more and more influenced by those who had gone on before me in various traditions. Liturgy, prayers and icons are more than just a cool fad of the emerging church. They fill a specific hole within my ongoing friendship and apprenticeship with Christ.
As my last couple of blogs have noted, I’m making my way through Brian McLaren’s, A Generous Orthodoxy. I really enjoyed his chapter entitled “Why I Am catholic.” Here are a couple of paragraphs that made me smile:
“A sacrament is an object or practice that mediates the divine to humans. It carries something of God to us; it is a means of grace, and it conveys sacredness. I care little for arguments about how many sacraments there are (although I tend to prefer longer lists than shorter ones). What I really like about the sacramental nature of Catholicism is this: through learning that a few things can carry the sacred, we become open to the fact that all things (all good things, all created things) can ultimately carry the sacred: the kind smile of a Down’s syndrome child, the bouncy jubilation of a puppy, the graceful arch of a dancer’s back, the camera work in a fine film, good coffee, good wine, good friends, good conversation. Start with three sacraments — or seven — and pretty soon everything becomes potentially sacramental as, I believe, it should be.
“Every denomination is liturgical. Some just don’t know it because their liturgies aren’t written down. For example, a seemingly freeform Pentecostal revival actually has a certain expected rhythm to which some deviations are perhaps allowed, but others are not. If you’ve been to a lot of Protestant meetings that claim to be nonliturgical, eschewing written prayers for ‘heartfelt’ (i.e., spontaneous) ones, you soon begin to realize that (pardon my cynicism) the Lord, Father-God, is just so good, Father-God, and it’s just so great just to praise his mighty and wonderful name, Father-God, glory, hallelujah, and we’re just so blessed just to be here, Father-God, hallelujah, just rejoicing in his holy presence, hallelujah, and if I just hear the word just one more time, and if I just hear just one more religious cliche pasted to others in a long cliche train, I’m going to ruin this whole so-called spontaneous heartfelt experience by screaming!”
I don’t care who you are, that’s funny!
2 thoughts on “Generous Orthodoxy: Sacramental & Liturgical”
That is indeed funny stuff, but good stuff too. I so resonated with this book in general, and like you, the chapter on “why I am a catholic” was one of my favorites. The journey you describe in this post sounds like my own. But then, I’ve found since joining the blogosphere, that that can be said about a lot of us. I’ve been appreciating your comments and observations on this book.
I just wish that I had just read this stuff, well, just a little earlier in life.