Liturgical grounding

A manuscript roll made in Italy in 1136, Paris, BnF, NAL 710 rouleau

Liturgy is one of those allergenic words people often associate with organised religion. It conjures up images of conformism, blind faith and irrationality that can’t be farther from the claims of modernity. And on the common reading of Western cultural evolution, liturgy belongs to the Dark Ages, when the individual hadn’t emerged from the background noise.

But liturgy is wired into our way of being into the world. Liturgy goes deeper than religion, at least the kind of ‘religion’ concept post-Enlightenment exegesis has accustomed us to. We are grounded in liturgy just like we are grounded in transcendence – it doesn’t have to be about the gods or God, but, to paraphrase theologian John Caputo, there is a weak force stirring in the name nobody likes or knows how to utter. Done properly, social and political life are a liturgy of the everyday for the everyman, which is to say that it’s a liturgy full stop. The smallest possible group is a symbolic incubator. Whenever a gesture, uttered word or object (which are the three vehicles of liturgical performance) are thrown in between individuals willing to risk their walled gardens in order to welcome each other, a liturgy is conducted.

We may reject sacrality without ceasing to be sacred and act in a sacred way. And we may reject the idea of liturgy while continuing to live liturgically with others. We arrange our lives (and our living rooms) around significant objects, our language around significant words and we develop new signs to mark out the living temples of our lives.

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