The Friday Clive

A longer quote than usual:

On Liturgy
Every service is a structure of acts and worship through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore.  And it enables us to do these things best - if you like it, it "works" best - when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it.  As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing, but only learning to dance.  A good shoe is a good shoe you don't notice.  Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.  The perfect church service would be the one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been fixed on God.

But every novelty prevents this.  It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping...

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity.  I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put.  But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship...

It may well be that some variations which seem to me merely matters of taste really involve grave doctrinal differences.  But surely not all?  For if grave doctrinal differences are really as numerous as variations in practice, then we shall have to conclude that no such thing as the Church of England exists.    And anyway, the Liturgical Fidget is not a purely Anglican phenomenon; I have heard Roman Catholics complain of it, too...



chris said…
never any harm in an extra large portion of Lewis! as someone whose passion for the same old same old verges on the unhealthy, i'm surprised to find myself in less than complete agreement with the passage. Lewis seems to be thinking of the liturgy as a medium that should be as transparent and undistracting as possible, the better to see God through. It's as though the liturgy were the typesetting of a novel (if that's the right word): within limits, almost any font, margin-size, etc. would be fine, but one would find it irritatingly distracting if the font or the margins changed every fifteen pages or so.

But what if someone, even on sunday, even in church is having difficulty "fixing his (or her) gaze on the invisible things"? for such a person, the liturgy might be as much a pointer as a medium--directing his or her attention away from preoccupation with self, and visible things, and towards God. An excessively familiar pointer might be less good at prying one's attention away from self and the visible things than a thoroughly novel one.

so i guess i agree with Lewis that there is a danger in too much liturgical "chopping and changing" (as they say in england): that can indeed result in too much attention being paid to the medium/pointer. but i think there is equally a danger in too much liturgical stasis: that can result in "going through the motions". If we always express our repentance in the same words, at the same point in the service, we may be less engaged in repentance than if we are prompted to repent with different words, in a different way, at a different point in the service. So a change in the way acts of repentance fit into the liturgy may enable us to repent better, rather than fixing our attention on the way repentance now fits into the overall liturgical structure.

sorry if this is too long--i hope i'm right in seeming to remember that you're quite interested in the question Lewis is addressing (and sympathetic to his take on it)!
Di said…

I love your comment, and it reflects much of the give and take in my mind on this issue. I have many friends who have grown up in liturgical environments and they often have a disdain for the confines of liturgy. Well, gosh, I was one myself. I spent confirmation class sleeping on the lawn at our Episcopal church and I took more interest in boys than in anything the church said every week.

But having spent the last thirty years in non-liturgical churches, I see the issue from the other side. I have watched innovation take the place of worship, the new and the entertaining take center stage. I cannot seem to keep up, Chris.

But the real reason I quoted this passage? I absolutely adore the expression "the Liturgical Fidget." I call it inspired (-:


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