Why Liturgy? There is an increasing trend among young people to seek the authenticity of the ancient liturgies of the Church. This desire is fueled in part by rejection of mundane and secularized services that mirror a consumption oriented culture often relying upon spontaneous and emotive worship.
Liturgy is germane to the Body of Christ and we are made for worship, it is only logical we would be attracted to the forms that the Church of Christ carried over and perfected from the Jewish church.
What good reasons are there for following a formal and official liturgy?
To Teach: The liturgy is a vehicle for teaching. Good sound liturgy is both an aid to worship and the worship of God. In Churches where the Bible is faithfully taught, liturgy will be a supplement to that teaching and a safeguard against the personality of clergy or laity to supersede. Liturgy aids in catechism through the lectionary (lessons of the Christian year) and presents basic Christian doctrines towards living a holy life unto God. Holiness is our ultimate goal. Liturgy aids in ordering our chaotic and hectic lives, toward a Holy and transcendent God who lives in us, and shaping us to be a holy people.
Have you attended a church with an excellent pastor that moved and his replacement didn’t measure up? Sound liturgy goes a long way to alleviate inconsistencies in clergy and offers a source of true teaching without relying on personalities. This is why, in an age of feel good relativism, the church needs good and faithful liturgy. Liturgy originated in a time and place when most people could not read. Today, people can read but being overwhelmed with information, they find it difficult to absorb all the basic teaching. Liturgy points the worshipper toward the Holy Trinity, the Sacraments, and how we should live (Love for thy neighbor). Liturgy intends that people learn certain texts by repetition as our very being requires repetition from our learning to say ‘daddy’ to our learning to say Abba, repetition is how we learn. Repetition is taught in the bible- 'from age to age, generation to generation’. Many people claim repetition, in the expression of worship, is somehow redundant, but when we test the logic of that presupposition who would see a doctor that dispensed with study or who would pay to hear a concert pianist that never practiced scales or tunes or what weight lifter could bench press a world record without doing reps? So why would we decide that the practice of faith should be different when even our very breath, which is life itself, is repetitive? Want to know why Chick-fil-A is confident, astute, attentive, and excellent at what they do? They have a liturgy and they follow it!
To Prevent Error: When people make up their own worship they end up inventing their own liturgies! Not only is there a tendency to focus on their particular likes, they also ignore their dislikes. Not having been subject to the test of time (the Holy Spirt works in the world through time) they are inherently unbalanced. Moreover it is easy to fall into nonsense and heresy going it alone. Good liturgy ensures that a congregation receives sound doctrine that reflects the Mind of the Church. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge .” Malachi 4:6a
Common Prayer: Traveling people find that they are required to take part in worship services in different churches with little or no commonality they are perplexed and feel uncomfortable. Liturgy does not make strangers of the brethren. Common Prayer is a powerful unifying experience and a powerful unity of believers towards God- “that they may all be one”. St. John 17
Liturgy offers an opportunity to learn both biblical texts and prayer forms that come to mind in times of difficulty or which can be said together. It is an extraordinary experience to say the liturgies with an old person who can no longer read but knows it all by heart. Having such texts readily stored up can be an aid in apologetics and evangelism as by repetition, the Word is engrafted upon the heat and mind. Many Christians learn texts in this way to prepare for persecution. How would you cope if imprisoned without a bible or prayer book? Could this happen here someday? Many believe it will. What would come most readily to mind without repetition? Some pop song? Is that what you want one your tongue as you meet the Almighty?
God is a God of Order, Not of Chaos: For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Cor 11.33) Let all things be done decently and in order (v40). These bible verses show the Apostles taught the principle that underlies a formal written liturgy, it is to ensure that a service has order and decency to it. A formal liturgy does not prevent points in it being more informal, but it provides a structure and it also ensures that essential parts of a service are not lost, or down-played. “I will send the Holy Spirit to guide you and bring you into all remembrance”
Cranmer's Liturgy Dating to 1549, is based on the liturgy of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer combined ancient liturgies that were found inn several books into one unified book condensed into 3 offices- Morning, Evening, and Holy Communion. The services combine together Reformed theology, elegant English, and ancient practices. His liturgy, is a beautiful masterpiece which perhaps more than anything else has defined Anglicanism. Gregory Dix in his book The Shape of the Liturgy wrote this of the worship of the Reformation and Cramner’s efforts. Not much has changed of the centuries!
'Compared with the clumsy and formless rites which were evolved abroad, that of the 1552 is the masterpiece of an artist. Cranmer gave it a noble form as a superb piece of literature, which no one could say of its companions; but he did more. As a piece of liturgical craftsmanship it is in the first rank - once its intention is understood. It is not a disordered attempt at a catholic rite, but the only effective attempt ever made to give liturgical expression to the doctirne of 'jusification by faith alone'.
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen,’ saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:11
The word liturgy comes from a Greek term meaning “public work or work done on behalf of the people.” Liturgy always referred to an organized community. A work, then, done by an individual or a group was a liturgy on behalf of the larger community. All the worshipers are expected to participate actively in each liturgy, for this is holy “work,” not entertainment or a spectator event. Every liturgical celebration is an action of Christ the High Priest and of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. It therefore requires the participation of the People of God in the work of God.
Liturgy is centered on the Holy Trinity. At every liturgy the action of worship is directed to the Father, from whom all blessings come, through the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. We praise the Father who first called us to be his people by sending us his Son as our Redeemer and giving us the Holy Spirit so that we can continue to gather, to remember what God has done for us, and to share in the blessings of salvation.
Through the liturgical celebrations of the Church, we participate in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, that is, his passing through death from this life into eternal glory, just as God enabled the people of ancient Israel to pass from slavery to freedom through the events narrated in the Book of Exodus (cf. Ex 11-13). The liturgies of the Church also help to teach us about Jesus Christ and the meaning of the mysteries we are celebrating.
A mystery is a reality that is both visible and hidden. Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection become present to us and effective for us in the liturgical life of the Church. His death and Resurrection are hidden now in the eternity of God, but as Risen Lord and Head of the Church, Jesus Christ calls us to share in them through the liturgy of the Church, that is, by the visible gathering of the community for worship and remembrance of what God has done for us. It is the Holy Spirit, the source of the Church’s life, who draws us together through liturgical actions, the chief of which are the Sacraments. The term liturgy itself has a broader application than that of Sacrament, for it embraces all the official public prayer life of the Church, while the term Sacrament refers to a particular celebration of Christ’s salvific work.
Elements of the Liturgy as found in the Book of Revelations.
Priests (Presbyteroi- Greek for priest anew) 4:4; 11:15; 14:3; 19:4. ; A high priest 1:13; An altar: 8:3-4; 11:1; 14:18; Incense 5:8; 8:3-5; Vestments 1:13; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9; 15:6; 19:13-14; Lamp stands 1:12, 2:5; Antiphonal chant 4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:10-12; 18:1-8; Chalices 15:7; 16; 21;9; The marriage supper of the Lamb 19:9, 17; The Eucharistic Host 2:17; The sign of the Cross (tau) 7:3; 14:1; 22:4; The Alleluia 19:1, 3, 4, 6; “Holy, Holy, Holy” 4:8; The Gloria 15:3-4; The Book or Scroll 5:1; Readings from Scripture 2-3; 5; 8:2-11; Intercession of angels and saints. 5:8; 6:1-10; 8;3-4; Silent contemplation 8:1; Acknowledgement of the Virgin Mary. 12:1-6; 13-17; Lift up your hearts 11:12; Catholicity or universality 7:9; Penitence Ch. 2; 3; St. Micheal Archangel 12:7; The Amen 19:4; 22:21.
O GRACIOUS Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.