Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi
CONVERSATIONS and VIEWPOINTS
5. from Vern Barnet: Lex orandi . . . .
4. from Vern Barnet: Quotations about Beauty
3. from Michelle Ritter
2. from Chris Morgan
1. from Matt VanderMolen
At Sunday’s Worship Committee meeting, Vern asked if I would write a piece for the Committee. He suggested that I write about how quietness and silence spoke to me in the worship experience. I have been thinking about this for several days and am reminded that the Quaker sitting during a Friends Meeting should only speak when the Spirit has moved them; so I will wait until that happens. The Spirit can’t be forced.
But I submit the following reflection in its place.
BELONGING OR LONGING TO BELONG
Monday Chuck and I took a good friend to a doctor’s appointment and afterwards we stopped for luncheon. He is one of the dearest friends that we have made since our move to Kansas City in 1999. Our friend had shoulder surgery and given that his partner of 25 years lives out-of-state, all of his friends rallied and helped during this time. Many of his friends are now ours and this includes many who are from the LGBT community.
As we were sitting at luncheon, I mentioned the Worship Committee meeting that we just had at the Cathedral, and it made me think of an experience from 30 years ago.
Thirty years ago we were living in Pennsylvania and attending the downtown Cathedral. A once mighty Cathedral had lost much of its congregation over 20+ years. One day I had attended one of the many “how can we get more families into the pews” meetings. After the meeting I returned to my office and mentioned this to a colleague, a young man who was a cradle Episcopalian. He looked at me and said that although he understood why churches would want families with young children, he said that he did wonder what that meant to him - a single man without a wife and children, (and not a possibility of either). He queried if his prayers were less worthy in the eyes of God and were his tithes less acceptable to the church?
I thought on this for a few days, and took his comments to a woman who had been a long-time pillar of the church and diocese. She was an exceptional and wise woman who attended college at the age of 16 and graduated second in her law school class, (a woman could not be first in that day). She was an ex-Naval officer and an expert in trusts/estates and canonical law. Treasurer, Chancellor, head of the Altar Guild, she had served in almost every function at the Cathedral. As she knew the young man, I asked her what she thought was an appropriate response. She took a breath, blinked three times and exhaled. When she spoke she said slowly: what makes you think that only a young man would feel unwanted in the pews? She was one of the great cornerstones of our church but she had no children, no husband and no family.
So we forward thirty years to our luncheon with our friend on Monday. My comments on the Worship Committee centered on the 5:00 service which has a majority of male attendees. This is quite unusual in church circles. Those who attend may be straight/gay/married/partnered or single, but they attend. I commented that perhaps the music should be pitched to the male voice as they were the majority and it might be easier for them to sing. Our friend, raised a Roman Catholic, and now a Buddhist, put down his sandwich and looked at me and said: what time is that service?
Dear Vern: Peg and I have attended the 5 pm service occasionally because it's generally hard for her to get to 10:15. It's a nice service, but I believe could be made very good for an end of weekend event that might be attractive to our neighbors. I would like to see someplace in our service repetoire a Meditation Service. I imagine the cathedral bathed in candlelight with a small chanting choir. The service is a meditation read by someone in clear, but low tones, mixed with periods of silence along with perhaps an intercession. It is designed to clear heads, release anxiety and get ready for the coming week. It can end with a Eucharist. Perhaps an offering of sandwiches, etc. at the end in the rear of the Nave. Anyway, you get the idea. Alternatively, perhaps something similar on Friday to clear the stress of the past week. I know of no one doing this kind of service. We are in need of a niche, a particular reason for checking us out. Much of what I see in the megachurch is loud and filled with inspirational sermons, but not calming. I think here your understanding of parts of the Buddhist tradition will be helpful. This past weekend's edition of the Review section of the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on the front page, "The Meditation Cure". I will deliver a copy to you if you can't access. Much is about Mindful Meditation where one tries to rid oneself of our illusions to relieve suffering. Anyway, you get the picture. I believe we are in need of some inventiveness in worship and can't think of anyone better than you to lead this committee.
Later this week I will send you some material we
are working on regarding Newcomer/Visitor guidelines. I don't know
if helpful but gives you an idea of how the process is working for people
interested in GHTC. We want each visitor to be a potential Newcomer,
someone serious about membership. The tie in to new styles of worship
is obvious. Also new forms of Christian Formation. For example,
the need for a course in Christianity 101, a short commitment course in
the basics. There is also stuff going on regarding our website...and,
we need webcasts and podcasts. Social media needs catching up.
Why not offer the 101 course on our website? Just thinking.
"Worship" -- What isn’t worship? God’s creation, a bit of exquisite flavor, a walk around the block, journeys of friendship, the simple blessings. And hardship, relationship and obedience through suffering has a way of drawing me close to God. And the processes of science and discovery! Surely love of God, of others, our enemies, our work, passion, all creatures of creation.
But sometimes lost, carried away by the daily expeditions of ambition, equilibrium, relationships. Even sin.
Now the Church, the Cathedral. The widening gyre gravitates to home base. I am grounded again in the historical Jesus, God’s proportionately biblical narrative. . . . Resurrection, faith, hope, and love. . . . The necessary discipline and sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, with a community of saints that I can shake hands with, through tradition, delivered by way of superb music and rich liturgy . . . . Leading me to a Jesus who keeps reeling me in ever closer.
BEAUTY AND THE LITURGY
0 worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. --Psalm 96:9
"Beauty will save the world" --Dostoevsky, The Idiot,
People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm [of wonder] if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense it has been said with profound insight that “beauty will save the world” .
--Pope John Paul II, Letter to Artists ?16===============
Or+hodoxy [sic] by Brian McLaren, 2004,
Where do the Anglicans (or in the United States, the Episcopals) fit in with all this? The Church of England faced an important decision as it watched the German Lutherans to the northeast break away from the Roman Catholics to the southeast, Which way would they go at the Reformation fork in the road? Powerful forces pulled the Church of England down both roads, but their choice was to choose neither and instead seek a via media or middle way. They sought both to retain what was of value from medieval Catholic Christianity and to embrace what was of value from the emerging Reformation movements.
Their pursuit of a middle way bridging Protestantism and Catholicism has not been easy and has cost them dearly. The problem with being a bridge, one of my Anglican mentors once told me, is that you get walked on from both ends, and this has been the experience of the Anglicans. But by walking that middle way, they learned three essential practices, practices that I have been experimenting with since I spent a few wonderful years in an Episcopal church in my mid-20s.
The practice of dynamic tension
When you choose both/and rather than either/or regarding Catholicism and Protestantism, you learn to live with dynamic tension in other areas as well. You resist the reductionist temptation to always choose only one thing over another, and you learn to hold two or more things together when necessary.
[page 235:] Anglicans have demonstrated this both/and beautifully in relation to Scripture. Scripture is always a factor in Anglican thinking. In Anglicans’ best moments, it is their primary factor, but it is never sola—never the only factor. Rather Scripture is always in dialogue with tradition, reason, and experience. None of them sola can be the ultimate source of authority: that source is God alone, the only ultimate sola. In the dynamic tension of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, Anglicans seek to discern God’s authority, and when these four values agree, Anglicans move forward with confidence. When they don’t agree, Anglicans seek to live with the tension and tolerance, believing that better outcomes will follow if they live with the tension rather than resolve it by rejecting one of the four values. All four—Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience—are gifts from God, and none should be rejected.
The practice of compromise
Compromise (like tolerance) is a dirty word for many Christians. It suggests a lowering of standards. But it is a beautiful word (like tolerance) if you are trying to live in community with others, with Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience in dynamic tension. In this light, compromise and tolerance suggest keeping a high (uncompromised!) standard of unity and a high level of respect for your brothers and sisters who disagree with you. It acknowledges that not everyone will reach the same conclusions at the same pace on every issue. So Anglicans are practiced in compromise, in making room for one another when Scripture, reason, [page 236:] tradition, and experience don’t line up for everyone the same way.
The practice of beauty
What keeps Anglicans together if they have so much diversity—High Church, Low Church, Anglo-Catholic, evangelical, charismatic, liberal, moderate, American, African, Asian, English? How do they function if their both/ and respect for Scripture and tradition and reason and experience doesn’t lead them to fast, easy agreements?
When conceptual agreement fails, many of them will tell you they are brought and kept together by liturgy (an orderly plan for public worship). But not just by words on a page. Rather, I believe, it is their deep appreciation for the deep beauty of liturgy that helps them make room for one another. Even if they disagree on what the liturgy means or requires doctrinally, they are charmed by its mysterious beauty and beautiful mystery, and that is often enough to keep them together long enough to share, evaluate, and integrate varied understandings. In contrast to Christians who argue about the fine points of doctrine but show little taste for the beauty of truth, the Anglican way (as I have observed it) has been to begin with beauty, to focus on beauty, and to stay with it, believing that where beauty is, God is.These practices—or this method—are among the greatest gifts the Anglican community brings to the church at large, as McConnell explains:
The Via Media, in historical terms, was John Donne’s phrase whose heritage dates back to Aristotle’s “golden mean.” It is striking that in Anglican history, the focus has been on the method, rather than a distinct theology or creed. Perhaps the most important thing about Hooker is that he wrote no Summa and composed no Institutes, for what he did was to outline method. What is distinctly Anglican is then not a theology but a theological method.Anglicans and Anabaptists alike took a different road through modernity from the rest of Protestantism. As the latter largely embraced modernity, in their differing ways and degrees Anabaptists and Anglicans withheld their full allegiance from modernity. For this reason (and others) they have much to offer all who seek a generous orthodoxy beyond modernity.
Beauty Will Save the World by Brian Zahnd, 2012,
[page xiii:] A thousand years ago Prince Vladimir the Great, the pagan monarch of Kiev, was looking for a new religion to unify the Russian people. Toward this end Prince Vladimir sent out envoys to investigate the great faiths from the neighboring realms. When the delegations returned, they gave the prince their reports. Some had discovered religions that were dour and austere. Others encountered faiths that were abstract and theoretical. But the envoys who had investigated Christianity in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople reported finding a faith characterized by such transcendent beauty that they did not know if they were in heaven or on earth.
Then we went to Constantinople and they led us to the place where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or earth, for on earth there is no such vision nor beauty, and we do not know how to describe it; we only know that God dwells among men. We cannot forget that beauty.Upon receiving the report from the Constantinople delegation of the unearthly beauty they had witnessed in Christian worship, Prince Vladimir adopted Christianity as the new [page xiv:] faith for the Russian people. What impressed the envoys and persuaded Prince Vladimir to embrace Christianity was not its apologetics or ethics, but its aesthetics—its beauty. Thus we might say it was beauty that brought salvation to the Russian people. . . .
Today there are many in the Western world who are searching for (some form of spirituality to give them what materialism (the de facto religion of our age) promises but is unable to deliver. The gods of the Enlightenment have proved wanting, and like Prince Vladimir, many are in search of a new religion. The Western church as an heir of the Scientific Revolution remains tempted to respond to a renewed spiritual interest by supplying logical arguments for the truth of Christianity (apologetics) and perhaps by also making a case for the moral goodness of Christianity (ethics). This is all fine. But something is missing. What about beauty? . . . . Is it possible that the Christian message can be communicated in terms of beauty? Along with apologetics and ethics, is there also an aesthetics that belongs to the gospel of Jesus Christ? The answer is an enthusiastic yes!Beauty is integral to the Christian message.
Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi --
An Application of the Ancient Christian Motto
First comes prayer, worship, the experience of the sacred, the transcendent. Thus shaped, then comes our belief (what we trust, what we believe in, more than what we believe about). And then we live our lives accordingly.
I like this for several reasons. First, it places the primacy of faith on our direct experience. Of couse what we experience is already shaped by previous conceptions and interpretations. Yet the depth of the worship experience renews and reforms and refreshes us and the way we see the world of God's grace.
Second, this ordering parallels some scholarly thinking about myths and rituals. Did the stories come first, and the ritual practices were developed to recapitulate them, or did the rituals come first and the stories were gradually invented to explain what the rituals mean? My conclusion is that the two grow in dialogue with each other, but the inspiration is always a numinous experience.
Third, this saying is a great introduction to those inquiring about our tradition as we seek to present the breath of theological diversity within the Episcopal Church. It is a way of welcoming and respecting each individual with whatever "beliefs" he or she may have, and an affirmation of our openness to multiple interpretations of the great Mystery on which our lives depend and to which he render our thanks in worship.
See the entire article for specific mention of Anglican use of the motto.
Lex vivendi -- [As we Worship, So we Believe,] So
we Live. A more recent addition to the ancient motto to emphasize that
our worship shapes how we are in our daily lives.
VERN’S NOTES TO HIMSELF
“Liturgy” means the work of the people, a public service to God. (The Greek term is a compound, the second part of which gives us “ergonomics,” “energy,” “organ,” “surgeon,” “bulwark,” and “work.”)
The Episcopal Church for its worship offers liturgy, not merely an “order of service.” We are all participants, not spectators. As baptized Christians are all ministers, so a worship committee should include consultation and cooperation with representatives of all ministries that are involved with worship in sundry ways and to varying degrees — clergy, musicians, sacristy guild, ushers, acolytes, sexton, buildings and grounds, children’s ministry, catechumens, and certainly pew participants. At GHTC, we want to offer our praise to God in the most beautiful, heart-felt, and welcoming manner. We want always to find ways to do better in worshiping God and serving one another through the liturgy, and thus ministry to the world.