Liturgy: Praxis & Pistis

A record of the evolving understanding of Christian liturgy by an ordinary Christian who came to faith among the 20th Century great-grandsons of Ulrich Zwingli. Having left his cradle faith for more sacramental and liturgical climes (yet, still within classic Protestanism), Brother Quotidian seeks to understand the impact of liturgy on Christian spirituality and maturity, and to engage the critical comments, suggestions, and contributions to his quest from others he encounters on the same road.

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Location: North Texas, United States

A Christian since 1970, married since 1981, four-time father; vocational Christian minister; and, currently a priest in the United Anglican Church.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Beginning of this Blog

This blog was inspired (somewhat) by another blog. Writing to that blogger, I found myself encouraged to do as he was doing, and so here we are. The introduction I provided to him serves well to introduce this blog, so here 'tis ...

Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for the reply. Did I, perhaps, jog you into resuming the blog? I notice that you've made another entry.

As I said, I found your blog by searching around for blogs on liturgy and theology. So far, I haven't located exactly what I'm looking for, and so I may have to create such a thing myself. It could just be that I'm daffy on the angle I'm considering (it's been done before -- my being daffy, that is). But everything I've looked at so far is ... well, none of it is really on the mark.

I've delved into Gregory Dix's The Shape of the Liturgy, and several of Alexander Schmemann's works. But, both of these guys (and, I suspect, everyone else like them), because they are writing out of a communion that has long been sacramental/liturgical in its spirituality, they are very much like the fellow Chesteron describes in Orthodoxy:

It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, "Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?" he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, "Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the coal-scuttle . . . and pianos . . . and policemen." The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make reply overwhelming makes reply impossible.

I've cited this passage of Chesterton to correspondents with respect to a number of different notions, and it "fits" here with respect to the efficacy, the utility, the sheer wholesomeness of liturgy. People like Schmemann and Dix and so many others within the stream of sacramental/liturgical Christianity know this about liturgy. The problem is that they know it so well that they do not, evidently for the reasons Chesterton cites, really give an account of it.

So, along comes a Philistine like myself, called to faith in Christ within the anti-sacramental, anti-liturgical deserts inhabited by the 20th Century American spiritual great-grand-sons of Ulrich Zwingli. By the purest grace of God I figure out that my spiritual canvass has large areas where there seems to be room for color and shapes, which are nevertheless blank. I notice that those colors and shapes are not expounded in the "paint-your-spiritual-life-by-numbers" text I inherited from my Zwinglian fathers in the faith. Instead, they seem to say that my spiritual canvas will be all the better for these blank areas.

Curious, nevertheless, I look at Christians in other schools and find their canvases a riot of color and shapes just where mine are blank, and I suppose that their text in spiritual painting has some chapters that mine is missing. So, I switch schools; I enter the painting class where others' canvases are wildly and richly colored. I join the class without a text, but I'm eager to learn what may be learned by copying. We learn to speak this way, no? May we not also learn to paint this way?

Well, yes we can, after a fashion: slowly, and sometimes even with a certain flair. But, I want to know why it should be done just so; moreover, I want to know how the "just so" stuff came about, and why it "works" so well. But, when I borrow my new brother-painters' texts, I don't find any chapters in them explaining any of this.


I suspect that if I "succeed" in finding what I seek, I'll be like that fellow Chesterton mentions, the one who is partially convinced of something because "he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it." I hope I can also reach the place where I will find that "everything proves it" -- that is, that everything demonstrates, supports, and validates the sacramental dynamics of spiritual life as one sees it in the lives of Biblical and extra-Biblical saints.

And, I hope I never reach the place where I can no longer expound, or teach, or explain what I am seeking right now.

Whether a blog will provide me a medium for working through some of this remains to be seen. I'll give it a go, and I hope I may find some happy chaps to spur me on with their criticism, questions, and contributions. I'm not eager to reinvent any wheels that are already running along quite nicely. Perhaps by attempting to invent one, I may be discovered by someone who will say, "Here, now, you blithering dolt! What you're doing is already done very well over there. Go take a look."

For the goal I seek, I'll take this latter option gladly should I ever encounter it.

Warm regards in Him,

Brother Quotidian


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bro Q here. The comment by Anonymous which was deleted was actually a post by moi, put there to test this feature. Software sappy friars must play, dontcha know. Anyway, I now know that if someone posts something tacky, I can untack it.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a cradle Episcopalian, I read your comments with great interest and look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

I grew up listening to loud, passionate discussions around the dinner table, with various family members raised/attending High, Broad and Low Church. My Grandfather insisted the language stay civil and respectful...and if a point was made it had better be provable.
Topics included: dipping vs. sipping, dunking vs. sprinkling, infant baptism vs. age of understanding and Cross vs. Crucifix... this is just the tip of the debating ice-burg, but I'm sure you get the picture. But for all that, they stood united on the Liturgy...that it caused the participants to seek a higher existence, the comfort from knowing the set service allowed the mind to expand on the words.

I live in a ultra liberal diocese and have had to leave my church, being unable to accept a lesbian priest, a married seminarian who had an open affair with a married parishioner (and was still ordained even after a complaint was made by the wounded spouses), a bishop who wants a “blessing for same gender couples or people who can’t marry for other reasons” (is this church blessing of fornication?) and a host of other reasons. I’m not sure where I belong at this point…jumping ship or looking for a continuing church or even staying put and hoping for oversight. I expect sinners like myself, Heaven only knows how much knee time I’ve put in 55 years, (repenting and asking for forgiveness) but this anything goes because “God wants me to be happy” is ridiculous.

Some of the other forums dealing with the problems of the Episcopal church are filled with rancor …more “I know more than you” posting, nasty digs and very little else.
You are a breath of much needed fresh air. I would like to know what place prayer has in your life. What were the results? Where and how do you apply religion in your daily life? What caused the radical change in the Episcopal Church and what are your hopes in joining a continuing Anglican Church?

Thanks Brother Q…I look forward to more of your Blog!

8:19 PM  
Blogger Fr. Bill said...

Greetings, Anonymous Commenter,

At later points, if I haven't bored you to death, I'd appreciate you weighing in on some of those finer points of debate around your ancestral dinner table. For those who got where I am today by the same route, I'd say this -- had we been a fly on the wall during those debates, our eyes would probably have gotten permanently crossed, all 10,000 of them at once!

The problem I'm trying to solve via this blog is rather more basic -- how do you make a credible case for sacramental spirituality or liturgical worship to those whose cradle faith were self-consciously hostile to both? Or to those who never came to faith within a sacramental communion but instead among the low-church anti-sacramentalists? I'll address the consequences of this in an upcoming post entitled "Liturgy as Poison."

Meanwhile, I'll take your comments/questions and put them in the hopper for later elaboration in this blog, especially the questions about prayer, or applying faith in daily life. Other matters (such as how/why ECUSA went off the rails) are interesting, and I have and will knock around with others, but probably not in this blog. If you'd like to pursue these further, drop me a line at brotherquotidian at yahoo dot com, or find me at a couple of other sites (Virtue's, or the Orthodox Episcopal Bulletin Board at


8:44 PM  

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