Advent and the Liturgical Year

In the midst of this blog's focus on Advent, properly I might say, and the liturgical year in general, which is the focus of the Catholic Church's activities the year round, an interesting challenge of sorts comes from the blog  Inhabitatio Dei in the post "The Impotence of the Liturgical Year." Halden Doerge is asking broad questions in the midst of Advent regarding the purpose and function of the liturgical year and calendar. Here is an excerpt:

"My point is simply this: liturgical enthusiasts claim that practicing liturgy (and the Christian year in particular) effects an empirical change on the faithfulness of the church in the world. It does something, we are told. And yet it doesn’t. And when asked about this inconsistency such enthusiasts give very scant answers. The fact is that, as far as I can see, the correlation between Christian faithfulness and liturgical observance doesn’t really exist in any meaningful way. There is rampant unfaithfulness in churches with the best and most uncorrupted liturgy and there is remarkable faithfulness and vitality in churches who have the most compromised and immaterial worship forms around. And vice versa. As such I see no reason to be persuaded that liturgy does what its enthusiasts claim."

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Read the entire post and the comments below, which represent a number of ecclesial traditions, and let me know what you think. As someone who entered the Catholic Church from a "low" liturgical tradition, the Mennonite Church, I have always found the liturgical year both comforting and spiritually grounding. I have relatives who complain of Easter and Christmas services in evangelical churches that focus neither on the biblical accounts of these great events or on issues related to them, who wait in vain for an Advent or Christmas hymn in December. Does not the Church become unmoored from its foundations without a liturgical tradition and its regular celebration? I think of the "O Antiphons" that Fr. Kilgallen has been blogging on during Advent. Each day we are brought closer to Christ's arrival through these ancient traditions. Or is the argument of Doerge simply not to expect more from the liturgical year than this (re)orientation throughout the calandar year, that the liturgical year is not a magical formula for the Christian life?

Hat Tip to Ry Siggelkow who linked to this on Facebook. You can follow Ry at his blog Rain and the Rhinoceros.

John W. Martens

Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Kang Dole
6 years 12 months ago
"Does not the Church become unmoored from its foundations without a liturgical tradition and its regular celebration?"

I think that this is pretty much the question that the author is asking, which is to say that he's not treating it as a hypothetical, nor as something to be assumed. That, at least, is what I gather from what's probably the heart of his post:

"The fact is that, as far as I can see, the correlation between Christian faithfulness and liturgical observance doesn’t really exist in any meaningful way. There is rampant unfaithfulness in churches with the best and most uncorrupted liturgy and there is remarkable faithfulness and vitality in churches who have the most compromised and immaterial worship forms around. And vice versa. As such I see no reason to be persuaded that liturgy does what its enthusiasts claim."

Now, he's speaking from a comparative perspective (eg. it can't be taken for granted that, say, a high church Anglican association lives out faith better than, say, a Moravian one). If the perspective is shifted to that of one, liturgically-oriented church, then it does indeed become hard to imagine how things might be otherwise.

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