/* ----- ---- *?

Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Ethics II - Week 6

This week's syllabus topic? Performance. Now, having been around Seabury, and the intrepid Professor Trevor, for the last year and a half, I no longer leap as quickly to think of that in terms, for example, of Trish's talented efforts. I hear it in a wider context: as enactment, and embodiment, and a sort of living into one's self, the way one sees reality.

Our readings and discussions along this line centered around liturgy. Now, this should not surprise anyone. We're Episcopalians: liturgy is what we do. It is what we focus on, bicker over, and define ourselves by.

High church - Low church - Broad church?
Anglo-Catholic - Evangelical - Charismatic?
Traditional - Contemporary?

Now, theologians of various stripes will declare that these areas all have significance, and difference, in multitudinous ways: theology, in piety, in Christian understanding. They can argue the abstract nuances until my eyes cross and steam rolls out my ears from the overload. In practice, in performance, I believe these distinctions are most clearly seen in our worship. In fundamental ways, our liturgy shapes who we are; and then, who we are shapes our liturgy.

Our guest speaker, Jim (I'm sorry that I don't remember his last name) led us through a look at various writers' understanding of the performance of liturgy, and the four areas upon which they focused. Saliers' affections; Rossi's understanding of symbol and response; Winter's combining of spirit and sacrament; and Farley's search for instantiation.

Don't let that last word throw you; I hadn't heard it before Tuesday, either. But Farley's article was one I liked, so I get to explain it. Instantiation means to create an instance. It makes the distinction between wanting to do something, and actually doing it. As Trevor explained, kicking someone is an instantiation of disregard.

Likewise, in the best of all possible worlds, liturgy is an instantiation of communion. In the other writers' terms, liturgy brings us together in a moment of affection, of emotional involvement, involving symbol and response, reflecting a sacramental presence of the Spirit.

Now, I don't mean to be dismissive or disrespectful; but, then what? If our worship does not produce some sort of performance outside of the liturgy of the church-- does not cause us to ask, "Now what?" and to seek an answer for that-- then is it not incomplete somehow? If, as Farley suggests, we don't do in our lives what is embodied in formal language and symbol on Sunday morning, then where is the meaning?

We are a fallen people, certainly; we do not always live into, or respond the way we ought. But we are nonetheless, as James says, to strive to "be doers of the Word, and not hearers only." Otherwise, we are not in communion, but only deceiving ourselves.


Post a Comment

<< Home