Our True Christian Liturgy

I had occasion recently to reread Robert Taft’s “What Does Liturgy Do? Toward a Soteriology of Liturgical Celebration: Some Theses” Worship 66, no. 3 (May 1992): 194-211.  I am struck especially by Thesis 13: “Our true Christian liturgy is just the life of Christ in us, both lived and celebrated.  That life is none other than what we call the Holy Spirit.”

This life of Christ in us is manifest when we have the mind of Christ hailed in Paul’s hymn in Philippians 2.  When we engage in self-offering love, the life of Christ in us, always present in principle, is actualized and made real.  The Holy Spirit, ever an agent of unity, through our love weaves yet one more bond of union.  When someone holds a door open for me, when a friend accompanies an injured friend to the emergency room, when a parent holds the hand of a toddler struggling to walk . . . in ways beyond count, ties of trust, gratitude and camaraderie are forged.  These ties are sacraments of the kingdom where all such bonds are taken up into and sealed in the eternal perichoretic love of the Triune God.  To love as Christ loves is to sacramentalize heaven.

Whatever else it may be doing, formal liturgy celebrates these perhaps otherwise unremarkable sacraments of the kingdom.  Yes, we say, all love comes from God, all love points to God, all love is consummated in God.  If at times we regard formal worship as a sacred precinct apart from and over against a secular sphere that has little or no regard for God, we must also in the end consider formal liturgy as the welling up, the naming, and the concretization of the divine grace at work everywhere and at all times.

The ideas I am expressing here are hardly original or unique to me.  As a facet of the good news Jesus entrusted to his disciples, however, they bear repeating.  They bear repeating as we ponder liturgical estrangement and participation in COVID-tide.  They bear repeating as we ponder—again and again—how we can best marshal our limited time, energy, talent, and resources in order to celebrate our liturgies in ways worthy of the mystery they proclaim and make real.

One comment

  1. Great reflection on this insight of Taft’s. This is probably the article of his I return to the most. Despite his frequent protestations that he was “not a theologian,” he really was quite a good one.

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