Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Spatial Character of Liturgy II

Continuing on with Marianne H. Micks appraisal of the role of space in liturgy she suggests that while theologians have suppressed or ignored the spatial character of liturgy it is prevalent in contemporary imagination (particularly the sciences and arts). Contemporary humanity, according to her, has not lost its awe or appreciation of place noting, “The question would appear to be not whether we are going to think about ultimate questions in terms of space, but how?”

How indeed?

Micks chooses to look at three phenomena related to liturgical expressions and space: church buildings, orientation and matters of catholicity or universality in liturgical practices. My hope is to explore each of her three realms in a more detailed analysis.

First though, I want to deal with a couple of quite profound statements she makes as means of introduction to her three phenomena and how the liturgy comes to relevancy in the discussion.

Micks claims, “For man’s Weltanschauugen…are indeed rooted in his Lebenswelt.” For those of you who are not German scholars (which I am not either) a rough translation would be, “Our worldviews are rooted in our environments.” In essence, our surroundings shape our understandings. Most human anthropologists and even theologians of place would recognize the reciprocity of influence between humanity and place. But for Mick’s central concern it is how the liturgy (environment) shapes our outlook or worldview. She sums this up by saying, “the Christian landscape and the Christian mindscape appear as Siamese twins.” Or at least that is the hope of liturgical formation.

Don Saliers has suggested that, “Patterns of prayer, reading, proclamation, and sacramental action are precisely the practices of communal rehearsal of the affections and virtues befitting ‘life in Christ’: the baptized life of faith in the world. This is no mere ‘imitation of Jesus.’ Rather, communal worship is a participation in the mystery of God’s life poured into the human condition. The symbolic forms and action of liturgy are the school for conceiving and receiving such a patter of life.” (Worship as Theology)

The ecclesial community that is immersed and attending to their liturgical Lebenswelt are being formed in the appropriate Weltanschauugen of actions, virtues, hopes, etc. Micks is suggesting that our physical reality or environment contributes to our understanding of the world around us. Maybe my mother was right…if you hang out with the bad kids you will probably become a bad kid yourself.