Thursday, January 03, 2008

Liturgical Theology 3

Chapter three of Liturgical Theology builds on chapter two. Here, Chan suggests that if the Church is in reality the body of Christ (an extension of the work of the Triune God) and if worship is what realizes the Church, then Eucharist -- worship in Word and Sacrament -- is the kind of worship that realizes the Church.

Eucharist (and here I mean the whole liturgy not just the Holy Communion) is the practice par excellence by which the Church is swept into the life of God. The liturgy is not just a means to learn about and remember God -- as though he is an object at some distance from us. The liturgy is the means appointed by God by which the Church realizes its life by actually participating in God.

Chan offers four central ideas about worship in Word and sacrament.
1. Word and Sacrament are both rooted in the incarnation. Hence, Christ himself is the primordial sacrament -- the primordial sign by which God makes himself present.
2. The Eucharistic Liturgy is at its heart about communion -- think of the epiclesis or prayer of invocation. It shows the Church as the people swept into the Triune life as the Holy Spirit unites us with Christ as he offers himself to the Father.
3. The Liturgy is always set in time -- especially with the Christian calendar -- showing the tension between life now and the coming eschaton.
4. The core movements of Word and Sacrament are bracketed by Gathering and Sending. This reveals the missiological nature of the Church.


Alice C. Linsley said...

I'm enjoying this series on Chan's book. The ontological reality of the Church as the Body of Christ is most immediately experienced in the Divine Liturgy. That has been my experience in the Orthodox Church escpecially. I often experienced it in the liturgy of the older editions of the BCP also.

Alice C. Linsley said...

PS I recommend reading William H. Willimon's powerful 1983 article "On a Wild and Wildy Mountain" posted at Just Genesis. Click on my name listed in the blogroll to the left.

The writing was clearly on the liberal wall even then.