All posts tagged: liturgy

Why Baptism and Confession?

Baptism Baptism regenerates humans in the image and likeness of God, created in and for love.[1] In baptism, the Father adopts us, the sacrificial love of the Son conforms us to his Body, and the Spirit transfigures us into witnesses of the Good News. The progression of the rites, from the reception of the child to the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, propagates the continual revelation of the Trinity in both the child and the assembly of believers.[2] In baptism, the Church praises God as the source of the love between parents and children.[3] In the reception of the child, parents surrender their natural authority, yielding to the divine authority of God.[4] Through this sacrificial dis-appropriation of earthly entitlement, the Spirit transfigures the assembly of witnesses into the kenotic Body of Christ.[5] As the Body offers the child’s name up for adoption, God claims it as His own. [6] By immersing the child’s name into God’s triune name,[7] the Spirit immerses the child into the entire ecclesial community. The child does not dissolve into the …

Amor Ergo Sum: Sacramental Personhood

  It wasn’t until I was older that I came to appreciate the caricature of society that was presented in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Augustus Gloop is the first to go, loving chocolate so much that, rather than him drinking the chocolate, it “drinks” him as he falls into the river of chocolate. Then comes Violet Beauregarde, chewing any gum she can find and turning into a violet blueberry after eating one of Wonka’s new gums. Then Veruca Salt’s insatiable desire for the golden egg and other things lead her to end up where all the bad eggs go. Finally Mike Teevee ends up being what he loves the most, “on” TV. In short, all of these characters were identified by what they loved (chocolate, gum, possessions, and television). These character traits, which were so fundamental to their identity, were also the things that were, ironically, their downfall. Luckily, it is not always the case that the things we love will have a detrimental effect on us, but this caricature points to an …

The Liturgical Critique of Technological Culture

  Over the past twenty years, rapid technological developments have completely transformed our social environment, leaving no doubt about the adequacy of Jacques Ellul’s earlier prognostications: ours is surely a “technological society.”[1] Such widespread integration of technology into culture raises a number of important questions for Christians and their calling to be “in the world, but not of the world” (See: John 17:14-17; Rom. 12:2).  I am specifically concerned with the following: how does Christian participation in technological culture affect our perception of, and participation in, the sacramental life of the church? Vice versa: how does our participation in the liturgy and the sacraments affect our perception of the technological society in which we are more and more involved? Such questions can be tackled by turning to the research of Walter Ong (d. 2003) and Yves Congar (d. 1995). By extending and synthesizing Ong’s sociological approach to technology along with Congar’s theological interpretation of Church and culture, I will argue: the liturgy of the Eucharist intrinsically orders the relative goods of all human technologies, for …

Why the Sacraments?

The sacraments confer and signify the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as efficacious signs of God’s grace.[1] Christ instituted the sacraments. Through them the Holy Spirit gathers the Church into Christ’s Body.[2] The sacraments reveal and restore our created nature as human beings who are related in love and made in the image and likeness of the Trinity.[3] Each sacrament echoes the Incarnation. God reveals his humility in the form of the sacraments, lowering himself into “corporeal and sensible” means to guide humanity toward “spiritual and intelligible” realities.[4] The body[5] is the inescapable site of the sacraments,[6] where Christ speaks in our tongue,[7] perfecting it,[8] so that we might learn to speak in his.[9] A sacrament communicates the Word of God ritually.[10] The reciprocal penetration of the Word and the sacrament hinges on the Church’s faith[11] in God’s unfailing promise of sacramental grace.[12] Fidelity to the divine Word is lived out in sacramental practice. In the sacrament, the Word promises the extension and perpetuation of Christ’s redemptive activity throughout salvation history.[13] Sacraments concretely extend …

Why Must We Go to Church on Sunday?

Why does it matter if we go to church on Sunday rather than praying on our own? We can read the Bible at home, pray, and do good works without ever stepping foot in a church. Nevertheless, liturgy, especially the Eucharistic liturgy—the act of coming together as the Body of Christ to offer praise and prayer to God, to listen to his word, and to be nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood—is an essential aspect of our faith. Sacrosanctum concilium states quite clearly why the liturgy is central to our faith: Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons [and daughters] of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper (SC, §10). Liturgy creates a space for the …

Being Liturgical

Near the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word in the Easter Vigil, we hear in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). St. Paul contends that baptism kills us. It ends a form of life marked by the power of sin, beginning a new mode of existence in Christ. The mind of the Christian, the nous, says Udo Schnelle in the book Apostle Paul: His Life and Theology, “cannot renew itself out of its own resources but is dependent on the initiative of God, who places the mind in his service, for which it [the mind] was originally intended” (536). To have Christ’s mind means that one no longer operates out of the logic of the fallen person marked by an economy …

Now We Must Dismantle the Tree

  Well, so that is that.  Now we must dismantle the tree, Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes— Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic. So begins the somewhat bleak conclusion of W. H. Auden’s For the Time Being. Written in 1944, in the thick of what surely must have been difficult series Christmases for war-torn Europe and its American ally, Auden’s Christmas oratorio concludes the story of Christ’s birth with a final statement on the dissatisfaction of the Christmas season. Auden treats on our own failure to live into the vision of love witnessed at the feast, on our desire to distract ourselves from the present moment with tribulation or joy. But, here we are, after the Christmas season ends, with ordinary time, a upsetting juxtaposition with the rich liveliness of the season of the feast. Auden’s portrait of the harsh contrast between the Christmas season and “the time being,” conflicts sharply with most American Christians’ (author included) preferred pictures of the Christmas season, wrapped in the glow of …

The Advent Apocalypse

Our parishes are too safe. They gather together like-minded citizens whose children go to the same schools, whose parents root for the same football team and work in similar fields. We form insular communities that sing music praising not the triune God who comes to interrupt history through the power of the cross, but music reminding the Creator of the universe how lucky God is to have a people like us as his own. The Church’s liturgy in these instances functions not as a counter-polis but as a replication of social structures that reduce the reign of God to a country club. We naively sing (accompanied by an upbeat tambourine), “Send down the fire of your justice,” unaware that this fire may be for us. And we do so in the name of an evangelization that is supposed to be palatable for a generation that longs not for prophetic discourse but therapeutic memoirs. Advent is the season in which our parishes should once again become dangerous spaces. The coming of Christ that we prepare for …

Where Do Theology and Cognitive Psychology Intersect?

Both college educators and students are rushing to connect psychological, educational, and neuroscientific findings to learning outcomes. Students study psychological research such as C. Dweck’s academic growth mindset in order to develop their learning trajectories. Professors are immersed in a burgeoning market of academic pedagogy models that stress retention of information in addition to conventional assessment. Three influential examples include: Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, What the Best College Teachers Do, and Small Teaching.[1] These are indeed exciting developments. On the one hand, institutions of higher learning are challenging students as learners to cultivate integrative and appropriative methods for their own academic development and retention. On the other hand, faculty are ever lauded not only for the precise presentation of content, but also for fostering the critical and integrative skills that bridge collegiate learning into life and work. Concerning both, however, as any faculty or student will admit, these goals are much harder to actualize than to theorize. As researchers in the psychology and theology of memory, we wish to suggest how …

Whose Liturgy? What Sacrifice?

James K.A. Smith’s cultural liturgies project has concluded with his volume on political theology, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology. In the three volumes, Smith makes an argument about the formative nature of Christian liturgical prayer. From the beginning of the project, Smith founds his liturgical theology of culture in an Augustinian anthropology: we are what we love. While secular culture has done an adept job at forming us in rites that shape our desires and imaginations (including shopping malls), Reformed Christianity has focused primarily on developing a worldview through an intellectual formation carried out in the Christian college or university. Smith argues that Christian education must turn away from an exclusive focus on the formation of the intellect to an approach grounded in liturgical practice. If we are what we love, then we need to cultivate those practices that shape the human imagination to love God and neighbor well. The first volume of the cultural liturgies project (Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation) established the anthropological basis of the argument, focusing on the manner …