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The History Theology And Practice Of Christian Worship - Part 4

Last week we did get an audio recording of the class, but the quality was low, so we'll pass on that idea for now.

Last week we discussed the various names of the Sunday assembly. Most Protestants call it The Service, or The Worship Service. Lutherans in recent years have changed their terminology and call it Divine Service, or The Divine Service. Rome calls it The Mass, and the Eastern churches call it Divine Liturgy, or simply Liturgy.

All those names are good, and each has is own beauty once understood. But for sake of unity with our fellow LCMS Lutherans we use The Divine Service.

In it the Divine serves us with his gifts: forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, comfort, consolation, courage, wisdom, knowledge, patience and power.  And we, in turn, "serve" or better "liturgize" him. To liturgize God means to offer one's self, all that he is, and all that he has, to God. The greatest act of liturgy is Jesus on the cross, offering his life to God in willing obedience, "for the life of the world." "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." That is liturgy!

We are, of course, incapable of that. But by baptismal union with Christ we, too, offer perfect liturgy to God. Not only sacrificially and sacramentally, but by walking in newness of life! (Romans 6:3-4)

This quote from West Syrian Liturgical Theology will help us to understand.

The West Syrian fathers have not given a definition of liturgy. Perhaps it is felt unnecessary to define something self-evident, and so intimate to one's experience. For the West Syrians, worship is the vocation of man, the very purpose for which he was created. He was created to live in communion with God, as a liturgical being. This idea is fundamental to understanding the meaning of leitourgia, as lived and expressed by the West Syrian tradition. Liturgy is not something external to Christian witness. (my emphasis) It is not an 'accessory', but an essential element of the Christian tradition. It is the very expression of the Christian identity. (my emphasis) According to the West Syrians to be a Christian means to be a liturgical being. Worship is not a supplementary or practical discipline in the life of a Christian. It is the realization of his vocation. This has been expressed in vivid phrases in the liturgical celebrations.

Psalm 139:5 was given a very interesting interpretation in the Syrian tradition. The Syriac phrase: You placed your hands upon me can also mean you have ordained me (as a priest). Thus, according to a widely accepted Syriac tradition, Adam was created as a priest, with a vocation to stand before God on behalf of the whole creation. According to the hymn that we have quoted, Adam's vocation was to offer praise to the creator as a representative, as a 'priest' of the creation. The Fall consisted in his failure to fulfill his 'priestly' vocation. Instead of 'ministering' to God, that is to stand before God in an attitude of trust and thanksgiving -- the content of communion -- he did not believe in God's promise.

Thus the Fall was also a failure to fulfill his liturgical vocation. As we will see later, according to the West Syrians, the purpose of the Incarnation was to 'teach man true worship' and thus to restore the broken relationship … 

Liturgy gives us 'the first fruits' of Paradise, a foretaste of the joyful life in the presence of God. Paradise was a 'sanctuary' where God was present, and Adam was led to the 'sanctuary' as a priestly guardian. When he failed to fulfill his vocation he was expelled from Paradise. Worship is the expression of our longing ('nostalgia') to live in communion with God, and to regain our former inheritance and dwelling place. The orientation towards the East has this meaning as well."

Today we will discuss the Salutation and the Collect.

On a related note, in discussing the introduction of LSB at the last meeting, the Board recommended that we print copies of the Liturgy and use it intermittently between now and Pentecost, when I am suggesting we begin to use it regularly. This, so as to become familiar with it. To that end I would like to employ it for the first time on December 31, 2017 and again on January 7, 2018.

 

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