Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Sunday, May 23, 2010

From the Rising of the Sun to its Setting: A new look at Marchiturgy

Here is an idea for a book I'm writing.

God has given us a body and a soul, two essential elements of our human person, and because they are both essential, we only fully realize ourselves when we use both. Two heresies spring up almost monotonously throughout the history of humanity: the first could be called the Soulist and the second the Fleshist. The Soulist believes the flesh and all matter to be inexorable evil and something to be shrugged off and the Fleshist believes that matter is the ultimate reality and that the spiritual world is merely an illusion. These heresies spring up in theology, philosophy, science, and art. The Docetists believed that Christ was a mere appearance of a man. Kant proposed Transcendental Idealism, stating that all matter was appearance. According to some, the problems of the body are really problems of the mind. The immaterial immediately becomes what is important because either the body is evil, or it doesn’t exist or it is irrelevant. The Fleshist takes the opposing view. Christ was just another man, not divine. Materialism is the choice of the Fleshist. He sneers at psychology.
Why do we do these things to ourselves? Why do we torture our minds and bodies with these divisions. Man is one substance consisting of a body and a soul and because of this, every one of our actions, to be truly fulfilling, must use both. I want to look at Music, Architecture and Liturgy from this standpoint. How each complement the others and how they all three can be truly human and give authentic glory to God.
I use the word Marchiturgy because of this close connection between the three. We’ve all experienced Marchiturgy. It’s that experience of the three either in separation from each other or in cooperation with each other. Good marchiturgy will bring all three elements together and make our worship both more human and more God-centered, for what is more human than to be God centered, we who are made in His image. Because of this, worship starts with God. Always. In Christian Tradition, God place is in the East. Christ the Sun rises and brings life to the world. Our beginnings are in God’s hands just as the beginning of the day is in the East. We start our worship with God, at the Rising of the Sun, in the East. But God’s love and guidance is throughout the whole day. His rays reach every part of us as we struggle in this life. He is also there at the End “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” If Christians truly seek salvation through Christ, they will end up with God. God then is at the setting of the Sun. The end of the day, the goal of our journey. Because of this, marchiturgy should reflect God’s prime importance, and his place at the beginning and the end.
We await the coming of the Savior. We await the time when he arises for the last time and establishes his kingdom. Hence, the architectural and theological concept of “Liturgical East”. If we are waiting for someone do we turn away from them? Do we go off to other tasks or do we not indeed always peek out the window, hoping beyond hope that we will catch a glimpse of the person we love. “To you, therefore, most merciful Father,” we look. We look to the east and await the coming of Love Himself, for where is there fulfillment but in the Divine Love?
This has several implications. In liturgy, it means that our words should reflect this God-centeredness and this awaiting of the Sun. We should always address God and when we talk to someone we do not look away, but instead try to face them. In this way, the liturgy requires the tabernacle where Christ Himself is to be visible and in a prominent place, and even faced. For why would we look away from our Savior when we are most in direct communication with him? The architecture of a building influences this highly. The East Window so common in many gothic style churches brings our attention to the East, to the coming of Christ. An orientation of the church that requires all to face in one direction--East. This centers our worship on Christ and his coming.
For many centuries, it has been the tendency to put ourselves first, center all the attention on ourselves. In fact, this is a general human tendency. However, it has become more and more prevalent to put Man first: Human achievement, Human work, Human thought. When our liturgy becomes “Man-Centered” then it suffers and becomes truly inhuman. This can be very easily seen in Sacred Music. A hymn for night prayer “O Radiant Light, O Sun Divine” is an obvious address to God, whereas the “hymn” “Take Me, Take me as I am” is a demand on God that is centered on ourselves. It is no wonder that the words later refer to God as “Mother” which is more or less problematic. Music can be us-centered, and not only in lyrics. In its presentation it can be showy and performance. Every time a piece of music does not focus our attention on the Source of all Music, it is a marchiturgical failure. It has ceased to be liturgical and cannot join with the architecture and bring out our worship in a truly human, that is God-centered, way. God song in each of us is our source of music, and to not direct our song toward Him is to not thank Him.
The peak of all three, Liturgy, Architecture and Music occurred in the centuries before the Protestant Reformation. Starting at the beginning of the Church, we can see development of doctrine, and with it development of liturgy, architecture and music. By the time of Aquinas, the emphasis was less on the development and more on the analysis and explication of doctrine. When Liturgy responded to all the doctrinal development and became a most complete worship of the Almighty and when architecture and music responded to the liturgical and doctrinal needs, then we, the Church, had the epitome of marchiturgy. To look back at the 12th and 13th centuries is not to “throw back” but rather to stay at the peak of the mountain. Once a climber has reached the peak and looks out at the vistas before him, he does not say “let us go back down and not look back. We must always move forward. No. He understands that the peak was his goal and only there is he truly fulfilled. The “progress” of liturgical, musical, and architectural “development” is merely this climbing down from the peak we already attained. What does it mean to the climber that he has to make the summit “relevant” to others? Does it mean he must leave the summit? If so, he may never find his way back there, and he can describe the beauty of it to people, but it will never be as vibrant and alive as the actual experience. Let others climb up to join him and they will discover the beauty themselves. It will be hard, but it is worth it. But he will not climb down. In this way, we can look to the marchiturgy of the Middle Ages and see the peak. Marchiturgy that allies itself to that peak is truly authentically human and we must seek it.

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