Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Spatial Character of Liturgy

So much for a vacation.

Time to get back to work I suppose.

Over the next while I want to take a look at chapter seven (In All Places) in a Marianne H. Micks book, The Future Present: The Phenomenon of Christian Worship.

Micks, who I presume is Episcopalian, takes a phenomenological vantage point of our eschatological hope made present in the liturgy. The first part of her text wrestles with the hearkening of that future reality embodied in ritual. The second half suggests what that reality is like in the present. It is in this section that she deals with concepts of place/space.

Micks points out the spatial character of the Eucharistic prayers.

Eucharistic Prayers A – D share these responses.

Celebrant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Eucharistic Prayer A & B share this wording.
“It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every‑
where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of
heaven and earth.”

Eucharistic Prayer C
“At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.”

While all prayers contain some form of tangible reality in terms of creation and place, C is my favorite.

Micks suggests, “Such activity in such a place cannot be understood only in the language of time.” I agree. We must try to re-imagine the Christian faith in terms of place/space in tandem with time. Edward Casey, among many others, has pointed out how place was replaced by a preference for space which ultimately gave way to Modernity’s complete reliance upon time. Noting that both place and space have been variously ignored, and even suppressed, we must ask what have we lost? What are the dangers in a time based Eucharist? And in Micks’ purview eschatology? And not to mention all other doctrine.

Micks asks what are we to do with our ancient (and for modernity, bankrupt) metaphors that plead us to “lift up our hearts” when we know that God is not “up” there? The modern emphasis demanded that we reclaim concepts of transcendence from notions of space/place thus freeing both God and humanity from the bondage of topography. Micks is right to point out modernity’s distrustful impetus here, but I feel she even underestimates the differences that this makes for cosmology. She accurately notes the loss of transcendence, but as of yet, has not marked the thrust of immanence championed by modernity which, I believe has introduced some dire difficulties into our concepts of ecclesiology. Similarly, I wonder if through the loss of transcendence, does this also open the door for both panentheism or a little further down the road in pantheism?