December 5th, 2006

rose window

Liturgical thoughts

In the Letter to the Hebrews, it says, "For Christ has entered, not a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf" (Heb. 9:24). This is the pivot of an argument that the Jewish law, its rites and its worship setting and priesthood, were merely copies of a revelation given at second-hand by God; whereas Christian faith, its rites and its worship setting and ministry, were a direct access to the reality behind those copies. The writer is basically asking, "Why settle for a copy when you can have the original?"

But what I've been dwelling on the last several days is a little different. It seems to me that worship -- as an act, as well as its associated furnishings and so on -- is in many religions assumed to be an earthly re-enactment of a heavenly original. Our ritual is not merely made up for effect: it's an imitation, a parable, a performance in time of something eternal. By our participation -- by our copying what has been revealed -- we allow its power to flow into us (and through us, to the world beyond), and we are caught up in some measure into the reality we stretch to encompass.

Collapse )