Blog 3: Christian Worship and Liturgy
In my experience with Christian worship, specifically liturgy, playfulness is extremely prevalent. Symbol closely follows after the recent readings, as I was faced with a list of symbolic elements within the faith that I knew, but never spent time contemplating. Festivity took a bit longer for me to comprehend (I will give it my best shot, but be forewarned) because, while I understand that there are plenty of festive times within the church calendar, I find it challenging to think of most common practices of worship as “festive”. We are discussing again about the categories of beauty, so I feel it important to note a comparison that surfaced as I considered the course this far. In contexts such as artwork, play, symbol, and festivity could be easily separated into solid, individualized categories. On the contrary, the Christian liturgy seems to intertwine these topics, which embolden one another as they are considered harmoniously.
Playfulness, or intended movement without purpose, is rich throughout the liturgy and clearly visible in many forms of Christian worship. Guardini expresses that the liturgy must be playful because worship through play leads us to become dedicated to God. It is in forgetting that matter matters that play becomes boring, but it is nevertheless present throughout the liturgy. Gertrude narrates her own experience with play during the Holy Holy Holy in mass. If she were to throw herself on the ground, say, in the street, there would be much different implications of what this unnecessary motion meant. Through the context of mass, this giving of her entire being physically to God is a playfulness that draws her near the divine, whereas in the street it might attract some strange looks and a call to 911.
Symbols by their nature are at least somewhat universal, and this is still true, yet is taken deeper when discussing symbols within Christian liturgy. Guardini defines these symbols as the spiritual manifested through the physical because it is required that it does so. This means that the material form of the symbol cannot represent anything other than what it is in an immaterial sense. He writes about numerous symbols encountered in everyday life, all of them examples of what is crucial to grasp about symbolism, the idea of veiled and unveiled. Cyril expresses this with the example of oil used for anointing. A bystander can perceive the veiled image of oil placed on the forehead, but cannot comprehend the unveiled entrance of the Holy Spirit within the body and soul unless they partake in Christian worship.
The liturgy is festive in the sense that it creates a divine space within a unique concept of time. Guardini says that the festivity of the liturgy is because there is an actual creature truly approaching a true God. The liturgy is meaningful in itself because it draws us in to an active relationship with the divine, ultimately producing joy through this encounter. Additionally, he mentions time, which has nearly a higher “fulfillment” rather than consumption because the liturgy is not bound by time, unifying those who exist within this realm and within eternity.
I believe that playfulness and symbol intertwine quite perfectly through the liturgy, because it is by the symbolic that one is able to maintain a sincere “game of play”. The liturgy within the mass is encapsulated by the symbols of incense, candlelight, standing, kneeling, the sign of the cross (quite honestly everything but the kitchen sink) ((there’s a little pitcher and bowl to wash the priest’s hands in instead)). These, in my observation, theoretically draw the soul into playfulness. There is something physical that, while it is important in and of itself because it is the spiritual manifested into this world, is purposeless in its sense of movement in conjunction with the human body. For example, a candle is lit and can just sit stationary and fulfill its symbolic role, but Christian worship puts the symbol into play by processing onto the altar with it every mass. This play with symbols then combined together creates a festivity. In summary, where as art can discuss one topic without always mentioning the other, Christian worship is proliferated through the unity of the playful, symbolic, and festive, making them difficult to completely differentiate.